KALAMAZOO — The W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek has awarded the Michigan Medical Device Accelerator in Kalamazoo a $400,000 grant to stimulate medical device idea generation and jobs creation throughout the region and state.

Formed in 2010 by Southwest Michigan First to take advantage of the region’s bioscience and medical device research and development infrastructure, the MMDA uses an innovative approach to the incubator-accelerator model by looking to invest in ideas that can be developed into products through a community-based development process.

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From its Southwest Michigan location, the MMDA benefits from the 120-mile radius around it comprising one of the strongest medical device clusters in the nation. The accelerator currently receives 200 ideas annually for medical devices and maintains a portfolio of more than 40 companies with products in various stages of development.

“When Southwest Michigan First looked at areas for business growth and opportunity, it did so with its eye on where it could be most impactful,” said Southwest Michigan First CEO Ron Kitchens. “With the region’s rich history in the health sciences, the medical device sector stood out.”

A 2010 Lewin Group Study (“State Economic Impact of the Medical Technology Industry”) shows that Michigan ranks 3rd in the number of jobs generated through the medical device industry. Due to the state’s vast manufacturing and design capabilities, the study found those employed in the medical device industry made on average 22 percent more than in any other industry in Michigan.

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Because of the legacy of the Upjohn Co. (now Pfizer Inc.), Kellogg Co., Whirlpool, Perrigo Co. and Stryker Corp., the region has a strong health industry foundation, both in the region’s urban cores and its rural areas. Work occurring in the manufacturing and assembly of medical devices is naturally attracted to such locations due to the affordability of industrial space, proximity to intellectual property and accessibility to a competitive labor pool. It is in this labor pool that Southwest Michigan First intends to create greatest impact.

“By focusing on the development of vetted medical device ideas, employment opportunities will not only come from newly established companies, but it also will occur in companies already working in the medical device support sector,” said Kevin McLeod, managing director of the MMDA. “The potential for job creation could have a tremendous impact in these vulnerable geographical areas.”

“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Southwest Michigan First both possess a benevolent passion to address poverty,” Kitchens said. “Our methods supported by their partnership give both organizations a non-traditional tool to tackle and impact the issue.”

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, and works throughout the U.S. and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit  www.wkkf.com.

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The Michigan Medical Device Accelerator has designed an innovative approach to the incubator-accelerator model which has become commonplace in modern entrepreneurial havens:  Rather than invest in companies, the MMDA looks to invest in medical device ideas at the very earliest stages of development that can be developed into products through a community-based development process. This community-based approach utilizes the existing health science infrastructure in Michigan to develop ideas into a marketable product. The MMDA is a not-for-profit (501)(c)(3) organization created and operated by the MMDA management team of Southwest Michigan First, the regional economic development agency serving Southwest Michigan. To learn more, go to www.mmdaccelerator.com.