Launched in September 2010, Blueprint Birmingham’s comprehensive strategic growth and economic development plan for the seven-county Birmingham, AL, region is all about collaboration. Two of the top priorities are job growth and capital investment – executed by successfully leveraging existing resources within the region such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and investments in incubators such as Innovation Depot.
Since implementing Blueprint Birmingham, the region has had more than 3,500 new job announcements and nearly $500 million in capital investment. The success has also led to a number of developments: UAB and BBA are in a strategic alliance; the BBA’s business retention and expansion program is enhanced; the Invention to Innovation partnership has been created to see, foster, and propel potential companies into the marketplace; and leadership councils provide feedback on issues and success in key economic sectors.
Innovation Runs Deep
A great example of the growth and commitment is Innovation Depot (ID) – an incubator for technology that is a non-profit 501(c)(3) economic development organization operating in partnership with the UAB. As the staff at ID explains, they work to create a positive economic impact in the Birmingham region by fostering the development of high-growth technology companies. Presently, there are 84 companies in-house at ID, employing 470 people ranging from engineering technology research to software, IT, life sciences, and more.
One cutting-edge company housed at ID is VIPAAR and the VIP (Virtual Interactive Presence) technology. Simply explained, VIP allows a remote surgeon (or subject matter expert) to reach into a case, instantly, that may be thousands of miles away. Through a patent-pending technology, created by VIP, a composite image allows full interactive collaboration. This remote surgeon is able to point, guide, and teach as if the surgeon were scrubbed-in and discussing the case face-to-face.
However, medical advancements in the region do not stop at virtual interaction, as another group of researchers incubating out of ID are tackling big markets.
Brigitta C. Brott, MD, co-founder, and CMO of Edomimetics, took time to explain the research and path her company is following. With coronary artery disease as the leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 2 million stents placed in patients in the United States per year, Brott says there is a problem and her company has a solution.
The problem is with cardiovascular disease, the use of bare metal stents or drug-eluting stents, and the lack of repeatable positive patient outcome. Research by Brott and associates led to a solution for stent coatings with Endomimetics’ BioNanomatrix. After years of research and development, the BioNanomatrix and its use with stents successfully inhibits blood clots from forming after use and re-narrowing within the stent or implant.
Nano-Diamonds in the Rough
The impact nanodiamonds may have in the materials industry is toughening artificial joints. So, researchers at UAB, in collaboration with Vista Engineering, Applied NanoCarbon, and Integrated Medical Systems (IMS) are looking into these nanodiamonds, their use in joint replacements, and how they might aid in preventing the inflammation caused when hard-working metal joints shed debris into the body.
With officials throughout the region taking the collaborative approach, it is easy to see how Birmingham is the centerpiece of a thriving region. Through the forging of continuous partnerships – and cutting-edge facilities such as UAB and ID – what comes from support for new and novel ideas is long-lasting innovation and economic growth.
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA)
View VIPAAR and the Virtual Interactive Presence (VIP) technology used for a surgical device demonstration at bit.ly/W1yW3Y.