Ram Rangarajan, Vice President, R&D, Stryker explains to Viveka Roychowdhury about Stryker Global Technology Centre (SGTC) and how the center will help engineers get direct feedback from surgeons to improve the design of products, thus scaling up innovation and improving clinical outcomes faster
Could you give an idea of Stryker’s vision or current strategy for the Indian market?
Stryker is one of the world’s leading med-tech companies and together with our customers, we are driven to make healthcare better by offering innovative med-tech products and services that help improve patient and hospital outcomes. Science and innovation have been in our DNA from day one and this is one of our pillars of our company strategy and vision. In the past 5 years, about 6-7 per cent of our annual revenue has gone into R&D. In 2021 alone, Stryker has spent about $1.2 billion on research & development, and we now own about 11,000 patents worldwide.
Another one of our visions is driven by values and at Stryker we create an environment, for people to feel empowered to come up with ideas. We value their potential which helps us work as a team as diverse backgrounds, identities, and experiences help fuel this innovation and solve complex problems for our global customers and patients. Our vision is to bring Stryker’s legacy of innovation to India and leverage world class talent and technology ecosystem.
Tell us about the work being done at the recently opened Stryker Global Technology Centre (SGTC).
The SGTC is an enterprise-wide cross divisional capability which works with different business units, and that is unique to Stryker. This new center will bring newer breakthrough inventions and technologies to address the needs of patients’ world over. It houses over 1000 R&D employees, mainly engineers and scientists working on various projects for different businesses all under one roof.
The center will have state-of-the-art labs spread over an area of 45,000 square feet. These labs are equipped with world-class infrastructure and equipment to support our engineers in undertaking complex engineering activities.
The new center houses a world-class Neurovascular Innovation Lab. This lab will help in enabling interaction between neurosurgeons and our world class engineers to improve stroke care. Imagine, orthopedic surgeons operating on sawbones using a robot inside our facility with our engineers watching it and getting direct feedback to improve the design. Besides this, this building is USGBC (US Green Building Council) LEED Platinum certified and offers features for differently abled people.
Could you give us examples of technological innovations from Stryker which enable healthcare professionals to enhance patient safety?
One of the areas that we function in is that of orthopedic surgeries, (where) we are moving from traditional surgeries and mechanical instruments to more computer aided-navigated and robotic surgeries – MAKO SmartRobotics. It is an innovative solution for patients suffering from painful arthritis of the knee or hip. Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery enables surgeons to deliver more predictable surgical outcomes with increased accuracy. Surgeons are armed with better planning before the surgery starts, enabling them to make better decisions in the OT.
For a market like APAC, which has over 2.6 billion people, the scalability of technology is of paramount importance. These smart technologies will help in providing access to great clinical outcomes and will play a role in improving healthcare and ensuring patient’s safety.
Most new technologies come with a certain cost to them. In India, if the cost is covered by insurance, it is good, but with low insurance penetration, what has been the uptake of these technologies in the Indian patient population?
Our global technologies have to a great extent succeeded in addressing a certain segment of the Indian population. However, we have also realised that the technologies that we have for the global population are not always suited for this market, so we are also focused on developing products that meet the specific needs of the Indian market. A product that we are launching later this year is focused on a solution designed in India, for India and the world.
Since Stryker has been developing and designing products in India for quite some time it is in line with PM Modi’s Make in India initiative. Could you give us some insights on what is the company’s manufacturing footprint in India, as of today?
As we work on different healthcare problems, based on the current technologies or business needs our manufacturing strategy varies a little bit. For example, there is a product that we will be launching soon called SmartMedic, which is a platform that upgrades existing beds in a hospital. Now that we are planning to launch it here, this product is made in India, for India and our strategy for making it in India is to solve the healthcare problems and clinical needs within the ICU.
What are the products conceptualised and made in India which have been adopted to other markets?
We leverage our global manufacturing footprint and design capabilities across different regions while we continue to work towards creating a strong pipeline of innovation and robust product portfolio that cater to market specific needs. In India, we are designing cutting edge products for this market as well as the rest of the world and with this launch of SGTC, we will be able to take our efforts up a notch.
Stryker established its first R&D facility in India more than 15 years ago to provide engineering support to R&D functions in domestic and other emerging markets. Since then, the SGTC R&D team has been partnering across divisions to drive innovation and research to provide better healthcare solutions.
In order to make healthcare better in India, we have and are innovating to cater to specific needs of surgeons across specialties. Some of the products conceptualised in India and adopted to other markets include:
SmartMedic (To be launched in India soon): A product conceptualised and developed in India and only for India. This is a platform that upgrades existing beds in a hospital. It is a connected device that measures patient’s weight and monitors turn-compliance to prevent bed sores. A smart innovation that is designed to eliminate the need for a new bed and is custom-made for it to solve problems for India at affordable prices.
Endocart: It is another product which is first made in India. It houses different endoscopic cameras, light sources, and all other devices
Moving back to the Make in India policy, what are the advantages of making in India especially on the cost, availability, access aspects of medical products?
The industry is witnessing tremendous challenges and pricing problems because of supply challenges, and we are obviously not immune to the problem of chip shortages. There are supply chain disruptions due to the war and such global problems are affecting cost.
However, the country is benefiting from a world-class domestic innovation and research. It helps in minimising the impact of these fluctuations. From the business standpoint, we will not be able to provide the affordability and accessibility that we are striving for if we are purely dependent on our global supply chain. Digital is also transforming technology and with it coming to India, it will help us upskill the market and help in improving scale by doing it locally and ensuring access and affordability.
How supportive has the Indian government been in their policies for medical devices? Should we see Stryker’s investment in this new facility as a thumbs up for the Government of India’s policies? Are you comfortable with the direction that they are taking when it comes to medical devices and the healthcare sector per se?
We continue to partner with the government. Quoting from the draft approach paper on National Medical Device Policy, the policy “envisages to promote innovation and Research and Development (R&D) by focusing on creating a dedicated fund, enhancing industry-academia linkages, promotion of innovation hubs, centres of excellence and intellectual property protection.”
With the current policies and environment, currently we see a very enabling partnership with the Government of India and the overall industry. As a global leader in medical technology, Stryker aspires to drive progress in innovation and to make healthcare better by offering innovative products and services in Medical and Surgical, Neurotechnology, Orthopaedics and Spine that help improve patient and hospital outcomes.