The Medical Center of the America Foundation’s (MCA) Innovation Center received a $25,000 Visionary Prize from the New Lab-to-Market (L2M) Competition.
The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the National Science and Technology Council, recognizes the most impactful organizations, programs, and ideas that support innovation ecosystems. The award was one of 18 prizes issued for the highly competitive national competition.
The L2M award will help fund the Nurse 2 Innovator Program, a program focused on connecting nurses with local makers to create solutions that will increase frontline healthcare workers’ health and safety. With this award, the MCA Innovation Center will help nurses in El Paso and Cd. Juarez develop solutions for problems they experience day-to-day in the clinical setting.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized, nurses play a key role in the healthcare setting, often spending the most amount of time directly with patients and thus having to utilize PPE, medical equipment and supplies with greatest frequency and duration,” says Emma W. Schwartz, President of the MCA Foundation, “These nurses develop work-arounds and novel ideas on how to improve the medical equipment and supplies they utilize for comfort, safety, effectiveness and/or cost. Partnering these nurse innovators with engineering and digital experts will help to bring their ideas to life – to benefit patients and providers while developing products and ideas that can be commercialized.”
Fab Lab El Paso and Fab Lab Juarez, nonprofits dedicated to providing community access to the tools for technical innovation, will work with the MCA to help nurses to bring their ideas to life. These local makers will assist nurses to develop prototypes and test their solutions thereby reducing cost and time of idea to design to production.
“When innovation programs employ a top-down approach, it rarely engages the workers who best know the bottlenecks and pain points,” says Cathy Chen, Executive Director of Fab Lab El Paso, “That’s why Fab Lab El Paso in partnership with the MCA Foundation and Fab Lab Juarez, chose to empower nurses from the bottom-up and democratize their access to design, render, and prototype processes in digital fabrication.
Officials say that in addition to the New Lab to Market Competition prize, the MCA Innovation Center’s Nurse 2 Innovator Program was awarded a $75,000 grant from the Workers Lab Innovation Fund. This prize will complement that award and provide additional support for nurse innovators.
The Nurse 2 Innovator Program will play an essential role in growing the innovation ecosystem in the El Paso and Cd. Juarez region.