Publicly funded academic efforts to research and develop software technologies frequently suffer from the following hindrances to wide market adoption:
1. They result in open source tools which require expertise to install, configure, and use (e.g., see the myriad of open source, complex tools for bioinformatics and genomics, or most python-based solutions).
2. Support and maintenance are often left to the end user, online forums, or depend on the availability of researchers with multiple priorities.
3. The lifecycle of the technology, rather than being determined primarily by market forces, is often shortened due to issues common in academia (e.g., postdoctoral fellows leave, funding halts, research interests shift).
4. Deployment is often limited to downloads from laboratory websites or a repository such as GitHub. There is typically no option for deployment to the market at large (e.g., via iTunes and the Android App store).
5. Outside of journal articles, conference presentations and proceedings, and word of mouth—all of which are limited in audience to academics--there is typically little effort in the way of marketing to a wider, public audience (here AD/ADRD).
A successful software technology achieves its function, is easy to obtain and use, and is well known and widely used by its target market.
I propose implementing awards which encourage the successful commercialization of technologies for elders with AD/ADRD. These awards would stipulate:
1. The use of rigorous software design and development methodologies such as AGILE.
2. The use of scalable development and deployment platforms such as Microsoft’s Azure and Xamarin, Google Cloud Services, or Amazon Web Services technologies (e.g., EC2, S3, Elastic Beanstalk).
3. The implementation of use and adoption metrics (e.g., Google Analytics).
4. A commercialization plan that includes a well-developed web marketing strategy.
5. Reports of product revenues of the funding cycle and five years following funding.
Such awards could easily fall under the SBIR/STTR framework which already helps stimulate innovation by small businesses developing medical technology solutions. The NIH’s Lab to Marketplace mechanism, which helps academic research technologies find a channel to commercialization, would also benefit from the five stipulations above.
My recently formed company Arnas Technologies is currently developing artificially intelligent companion apps for validating or gently orienting seniors with AD/ADRD. An award with well-defined structure and reporting (rather than simply requiring annual reports) would only serve to benefit our efforts and create an efficient pathway to market.
Sincerely, Nathan J. O’Connor, PhD, MS
CEO, Arnas Technologies, LLC.