As a Professor of Orthopedics in the UMCG, Sjoerd has been working on the way that healthcare, studies and research are organised and financed in his department. From his own experience, he knows how important it is to think outside the box and to look further than one’s own field of expertise. In his work as an orthopedic surgeon, he has also encountered problems that needed solutions that were not readily available within the field of orthopedics.
When you’re looking for solutions, it is important to swallow your pride, says professor Sjoerd Bulstra, one of the founders of HTRIC. Using the diversity of knowledge available within HTRIC, it is possible to make a great leap forward, not just when it comes to precision and minimally invasive surgery, but also when it comes to tissue replacement by combining cell technology with carrier materials. By refining the diagnostic tools and treatment possibilities, important steps can be made not just in the effectiveness, but also in the efficiency of healthcare.
Sjoerd remarks that as a scientist, it is important to take the time to really listen to one another. The diverse research fields have a vast amount of knowledge and building bridges between these separate islands is exactly something that HTRIC could play an important part in. To be able to do this, you need people that can and want to think outside the limits and conventions of their own field. Most of all, you need people with a natural curiosity. For Sjoerd, this curiosity and willingness to work together is the very core of HTRIC. If one dares to ask questions based on mere curiosity, solutions that would not have been found otherwise will present themselves.
“You have to build bridges to help each other go the extra mile.”
Sjoerd emphasises the difference between a doctor and a fundamental scientist. Doctors work towards a practical solution, but often encounter problems that they cannot solve immediately. Fundamental scientists can be very focused on a specific aspect of a problem, which does not necessarily always lead to an application or solution for a clinical problem. At the same time, practical applications sometimes feel far removed. Within HTRIC, we want to try to bring these two worlds closer together. Questions and answers will be linked more closely. Besides that, it is important to spark the curiosity on both sides of the fence, stimulating new developments.
Currently, the final stage of developing a new application or product is often a difficult step. For the first use in or on humans, the necessary steps are crucial and often tricky and require financing, which is even harder to find. This step in the process also requires specific support, such as a clean lab or other facilities, in which the end users (patients, doctors, society, and the industry) need to be closely involved. HTRIC wants to support precisely these important final steps in the development of innovations by offering laboratory facilities and knowledge.
Large investments are needed in the development of a new technology, but also in finally applying this technology on a large scale. New technologies play a part in a number of preventative measures, but also in running diagnostic tests and more accurately administering therapy, reducing the risk for patients. Thanks to these innovations, we could prevent or control the amount of physical damage in patients by making a diagnosis and drawing up a treatment plan. It is precisely the cooperation with other institutes of knowledge that enables HTRIC to show the yield and social return of new technologies in the long term in all kinds of areas.
Sjoerd’s intention for HTRIC is to develop it into a sustainable movement, one that generates many innovations for the field from a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach. To ensure a successful implementation of these solutions, people naturally need to want them and have the possibility to use them. Therefore, Sjoerd pleads for involving both producers and end users in early development stages of an innovation. The perspective of the end user will ensure that an innovation will actually be used in practice, and in the correct way. HTRIC wants to be the platform of choice in which developers, producers and users meet each other to come to the most effective solution for a problem.
“Daring to share is the first step in generating the biggest possible impact.”
If you ask Sjoerd for his vision of the HTRIC in five years, he imagines a beehive full of activities. A place where people meet and are stimulated by students and researchers to create innovations together with users and companies. HTRIC has to offer an open culture that supports the development of innovations, an easily accessible place where you can find the solution for a problem you would like to get solved. To achieve this, Sjoerd thinks we need connectors, people that walk around HTRIC to get the various professionals together and to give researchers the necessary push to look at what others are doing. Those connectors can organise meetings to brainstorm about an innovation problem, combining the knowledge of various professionals. According to Sjoerd, it is crucial to see what others are doing as a researcher to work towards good ideas on a basis of equality. It is also important to dare to share. If you work together from a common motivation to find an innovative solution for a problem, chances that you will succeed are much higher than if you lock yourself away, alone in your office.
Professor Sjoerd Bulstra is a retired orthopedic surgeon and one of the founders of HTRIC. In his research, he focuses on cartilage restoration and bone reconstruction, biomaterials and related infections, healthy ageing, motion analysis after prosthetic surgery, and the treatment of osteoarthritis.