Six tips from innovation VP at $10 billion Partners HealthCare

coburn-largeChris Coburn knows a few things about spin-offs: as the first executive in charge of innovation for the Cleveland Clinic, he oversaw the spin-off of 57 companies over thirteen years.

Last June, he took a new job as Vice President of Innovation at Partners HealthCare, a $10 billion non-profit healthcare system based in Boston whose hospitals include Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Coburn is responsible for commercializing scientific breakthroughs, which can include licensing technology to existing companies or cultivating new ventures that will eventually have their own management teams and their own funding.

Coburn says that one of his biggest challenges is the chasm between the methodical culture of academic innovation — both hospitals are affiliated with Harvard Medical School — and the culture of business innovation. Coburn manages 75 staffers and a trove of about 600 inventions. We talked to Coburn about how he’s trying to bring the two closer together, and generate new revenues from the $1.5 billion worth of sponsored research Partners conducts each year, most of it funded by government agencies like the National Institutes of Health or foundations. Since June of 2013, a dozen new spin-offs have been created, focused on everything from helping surgeons identify the edges of tumors during surgery to new treatments for infections and neurodegenerative diseases.

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