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Institute to Open Innovation Process, Boost Funding Odds



The Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis plans to adopt practices from the business world to conduct more innovative medical research and improve the odds of getting their studies funded. The institute, on the campus of Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, is affiliated with the Indiana University School of Medicine and focuses on medical informatics, aging, and health services research.

Regenstrief aims to encourage research teams to develop high risk/high reward ideas that have the potential to challenge current thinking on difficult problems. The proposed approach, say its designers, would democratize the process of generating new research ideas and create a preliminary feasibility step to test the idea and generate pilot data that can attract further funding.

“Having worked out ideas, proven feasibility, and obtained pilot data,” says institute president William Tierney, “will give our investigators a leg up on their peers in competing for increasingly scarce research dollars.” Tierney has named Jon Duke, a researcher at the institute, as its first Innovation Officer and the initiative’s leader. The Regenstrief Foundation is providing a $500,000 grant to fund the program.

Duke says Regenstrief Institute is “both accelerating and democratizing the idea process,” by adopting practices from innovative companies like Google and Facebook to change the way research ideas are developed and funded. “We are encouraging everyone, from established researchers to fellows-in-training to software developers to research assistants to affiliated clinicians,” adds Duke, “to let us know what they think has potential.”

Another of the program’s goals is to short-circuit the lengthy process to get good ideas funded and make promising proposals more competitive when seeking financial support. The established external academic grant review process typically takes nine to 18 months from time of submission to funding, if approved.

Regenstrief’s new process, on the other hand, aims to generate ideas that might not be proposed or considered for traditional grant funding. The process also allows the institute’s researchers to prove the feasibility of their ideas before submitting more substantial proposals to funding agencies.

Regenstrief will hold its first “innovation fair” on 2 November where individuals or teams can present their most promising ideas. Colleagues will review proposals and select those ideas they believe should advance to evaluation for funding.

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