An specialist in the medical device industry of the University of Minnesota, analyzes the status of this sector in Costa Rica and TEC’s role in the development of it.
Dr. Daniel Mooradian, from the University of Minnesota, United States, has been involved since the conception of the Engineering in Medical Devices Master of the Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC), a program in which he teaches a subject on the dynamics of this industry, which he refers to as MedTech (medical technology).
This experience, and his role as Director of Postgraduate Studies in the Master’s in Innovation in Medical Devices of the Technological Leadership Institute (TLI), make him an ideal specialist to analyze the development of this industry in Costa Rica and Latin America.
He considers that TEC Master’s degree is a fundamental axis for the continous development of the medical device sector in Costa Rica, which is already the main export product of the country, according to PROCOMER data, and that in 2017 it employed more than 22,000 people.
In this interview, Mooradian analyzes the importance of the Master’s Degree in Medical Devices Engineering – one of a kind in Latin America – the relevance that this collaboration has for the University of Minnesota and why the country and the region should invest more in Research and Development (R&D) in this area.
What has been your professional experience with the Master’s degree in Medical Device Engineering?
First I participated in the primary discussions about the design of the program, under an agreement between the TEC and the Institute of Technological Leadership (TLI, in English), of the University of Minnesota, facilitated by Vanessa Gibson, of Cinde (Costa Rican Coalition of Initiatives of Development). Afterwards, I tought a course on the dynamics of the MedTech industry, from the starting of the program. In all these, my experience has been very positive.
– What is your opinion of the Costa Rican students that you have met in the Master’s program?
The students are brilliant and highly motivated. They contribute with diverse knowledge and experiences to the program, depending on their academic training and work experience.
My experience is that they are excited about the industry and their role in it. Most of them are thinking about how they can create value for companies they work on and their motivation is similar to that of their peers at the University of Minnesota, since they want to contribute to the growth of the industry in Costa Rica.
“Preparing engineers / scientists to work effectively in manufacturing is essential to meet the short-term needs of companies that have been located in Costa Rica, but it is also a critical first step towards expanding Costa Rica’s Med Tech ecosystem”.
– From your point of view, what do you think is the importance of this Master’s Program for Costa Rica and Latin America?
My perspective is that of an educator and professional in the medical industry who observes the growth of a MedTech ecosystem in Costa Rica, which resembles in many aspects the development of the MedTech ecosystem in Minnesota decades ago.
Preparing engineers / scientists to work effectively in manufacturing is essential to meet the short-term needs of companies that have been located in Costa Rica, but it is also a critical first step towards expanding the Costa Rican MedTech ecosystem in order to include companies that support the local manufacturing, such as component manufacturing, testing services, etc; and, ultimately, also provide the basis for medical device entrepreneurship. If Costa Rica is committed to build a sustainable MedTech industry, programs like the one TEC offers are essential.
“It can boost the growth of new businesses, led by entrepreneurs with training and experience acquired during their studies in TEC, and who work in the leading medical device manufacturing companies in Costa Rica”.
– What are the objectives to be pursued by an academic program such as the Master’s Degree in Medical Device Engineering, taking into account that it is unique in Costa Rica and Latin America?
The program has focused on preparing students to work in the medical device manufacturing sector. This is appropriate, given the workforce needs of the industry during the recent years, as I understand. It is also intentional and reflects the need of the industry as pointed out by Vanessa Gibson and her team at CINDE, in the stakeholder analysis. My own interactions with companies in Costa Rica, for example, Boston Scientific Corporation, are consistent with this analysis.
However, as the ecosystem expands, the need for assistant services, such as machinign, component manufacturing, testing… can boost the growth of new businesses, led by entrepreneurs with training and experience acquired during their studies in TEC, and who work in the leading medical device manufacturing companies in Costa Rica.
I’ve had the chance to meet and talk with some of these individuals and I think that it is also valuable prepare the students for this. The class that I’ve thought at TEC’s Master Degree emphasizes it, by presenting students with “business analysis” aspects, that improve their decision-making skills. They apply these concepts to their group projects and have told me that it has been useful to design a business meassure, which includes necessity, market, competition, for the product concepts they are developing.
What benefits does the University of Minnesota receives by cooperating with the costarican program?
University of Minnesota and the TLI are committed to improvement. The TLI is an institute that focuses of preparing students for leadership roles in high-tech industries. Such industries are global, so therefore the interested parties involved to the TLI are similar to the interested parties related to TEC.
I see the partnership with TEC as an extension of TLI’s mission. Our hope is that the mutual cooperation will create opportunities for out teachers and students to gain a better understanding of the global markets. First conversations to establish a student exchange program are already underway.
Do you consider that it is important for Latin-American to invest more in R&D, ideally based on the fundamentals of science and engineering strengths, for example, energy and materials that are fundamental to sustain the long-term economy?
I am impressed by the accomplishments that I’ve seen in high-tech industries in Latin America, such as energy, electronics, aerospace and med-tech. Although my opinion is biased based on my own experience, Costa Rica stands out in this topic, same as TEC, under the leadership of Dr. Julio Calvo Alvarado, who has supported the program since the beginning.
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