WINDSOR, Ont. – The provincial government is betting $2.7 million on a University of Windsor healthcare research group’s ability to identify innovative projects that will benefit the healthcare system and generate economic opportunities for Ontario companies.
The newly created Odette Health Innovation Network (WIN) will work alongside up to 25 projects over the next three years studying their potential to improve healthcare, help remove policy barriers and aid industry in commercializing their research.
Funding for the project will come from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
“Canada is an innovative country in terms of design and creating new technology,” said Anne Snowdon (pictured), who before coming to Windsor to head up WIN was academic chair of the International Centre for Health Innovation.
“We’re one of the top four countries in generating new knowledge. We’re also a country that ranks low in our ability to take new technology and commercialize it, and make it work for the system and for patients.
“There’s tremendous interest in this from across the country.”
The funding is the first grant landed by WIN, which was launched this past August.
WIN is also the first Canadian centre of its kind with formalized ties with U.S. healthcare organizations and companies allowing complete access to all facets of North American healthcare.
The group has five researchers based in Windsor with plans to hire three more over the next three months. In addition, Snowdon has put together a virtual network made up of leaders of industry, healthcare and government in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
“This kind of work is incredibly important,” said Snowdon, who added the group has been invited to address a committee from Britain’s House of Lords about their work.
“Canada is not the only country struggling to pay for healthcare. How we make better use of our tax dollars and getting care to people when they need it is a challenging issue for many countries.
“We’re the only centre in Canada, and possibly the U.S., that is looking at this issue this way.”
Snowdon said her team will collect and analyze data to look for evidence to present to the government that a project might achieve the twin goals of better healthcare and economic opportunity.
She emphasized the role of policymakers is vitally important in helping remove barriers to innovation. The Winnipeg native added as vital as the innovations are themselves, connecting the various players involved will be just as important.
“Canada is a big geographic land mass with a small population and one of the things I think we don’t do well is share information,” said Snowdon, a Fulbright Scholar who holds a nursing degree from Western, a Master’s from McGill and did her doctorate in nursing at the University of Michigan.
“We’re often called a country of pilot projects, but we tend not to listen to our own work sometimes.”