Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has announced a new digital health Sandbox program as part of the Administration’s Digital Health Initiative, designed to drive the growth of innovative startups in the state, and assisting them to access unique research and development (R&D) facilities. According to the announcement, the new program will offer USD 500,000 in funding to open doors for health tech startups to access research and development “sandboxes.” The announcement was made during Baker’s visit with Digital Health Council members at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s PracticePoint research, development and commercialization alliance, one of the R&D sandbox supported by the program. In the year 2017, that facility was received a USD5 million grant from the state.
As part of the announcement, the Massachusetts eHealth Institute (MeHI) at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, over the next 2 years, will provide financial assistance to startups, allowing them to access sandboxes. The Sandbox program, which will be spearheaded by the Massachusetts Digital Health Council, intends to foster digital health across the Commonwealth by connecting digital health companies to innovative test beds that will strengthen the research and development lifecycle. The program will be managed by MeHI and will expand to include further sandboxes statewide, as well as provide a range of testing ecosystems and services. Moreover, it will assist in matching Massachusetts-based companies with the granted sandboxes and also offer funding directly to the sandboxes to cover the costs for companies to access their R&D services, supporting the product development of homegrown startups while expanding the user base for these innovative sandboxes. The sandbox program also designs to cut down the time, cost, and resources required in testing and authenticating new products and services.
In the Sandbox program, startups involved will have access to PracticePoint’s benefits, including Point-of-practice clinical care suites embedded in an engineering setting to accelerate the development of medical devices and cyber-physical systems; A home, rehabilitation, and assistive care environment comprising a state-of-the-art motion capture suite, and a highly instrumented residential care suite; A hospital environment including a hybrid operating suite, magnetic resonance imaging suite, and a critical care suite; Flexible testing and workspaces to allow for a multitude of experiments; Manufacturing spaces co-located with the testing facilities, including CNC manufacturing, laser cutting, electronics assembly and testing equipment, and 3D printers; Access to research-grade equipment to obtain ground-truth measurements; An existing Institutional Review Board (IRB) for user studies and focus groups; A flexible wireless networking infrastructure in a realistic setting; Ability to conduct cybersecurity development and testing at device, networking, and data storage levels; Collaborative research opportunities with WPI faculty experts in areas including user design/user interface; assessing cognitive load; medical robotics; biomechanics; sensor design and medical IOT; image-guided robotic interventions; smart prosthetics; Clinical partners within the WPI ecosystem, including hospital administrators, doctors, surgeons, and nursing care staff; and Multi-modality cross-validation of new designs with industry standards.