University of Minnesota


Earl E. Bakken
Medical Devices Center

About Us

Earl E. Bakken

"I am pleased and honored to have the Center named for me. The innovation that takes place there is crucial to the advancement of healthcare that keeps the well-being of the patient as its focus. As an electrical engineer In the early days, I spent many hours side-by-side with the doctors and surgeons so that their needs and new ideas could be expeditiously developed, getting life-saving therapy to a patient in record time. This type of collaboration is key to finding new ways to help people live longer, fuller lives." -Earl E. Bakken

The Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center (Bakken MDC) at the University of Minnesota is an interdisciplinary program that sits within the Institute for Engineering in Medicine and combines basic research, applied and translational research, education and training, and outreach and public engagement all related to medical devices. The Bakken MDC brings together the University of Minnesota's expertise from the College of Science and Engineering and the Health Sciences (School of Dentistry, College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Nursing, College of Pharmacy and the Medical School).

In July of 2017, the Medical Devices Center was renamed in honor of UMN Alumnus and Medtronic, Inc. Co-Founder, Earl E. Bakken. “The Medical Devices Center wouldn’t be possible without the foundation Earl Bakken built in Minnesota,” said Arthur Erdman, Ph.D., director of the Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center. “Having his name officially associated with our center is an honor, and we are committed to continuing to live up to his charge, to create new technologies to improve health.”

In April 2013, the Bakken MDC moved into its 8,000 square foot home located in the Mayo Building on the East Bank Campus. The Bakken MDC aims to strengthen interdisciplinary research among faculty in the health sciences and engineering specifically related to medical devices. The center will help train the next generation of medical device inventors and foster new relationships with the successful Twin Cities medical device industry and various government agencies in an effort to improve health care worldwide.

One of the crown jewels of the Bakken MDC is the Innovation Fellows Program, which began in 2008. The goal is to train the next leaders in medtech by fostering leadership and teaching risk management for medical devices. The Bakken MDC teaches the Innovation Fellows disciplined product development which includes FDA Requirements, Insurance Reimbursement, Intellectual Property and Business Strategies in addition to Creativity Techniques and Prototyping.

The Innovation Fellows spend their first few weeks in a series of Educational Rotations presented by thought leaders in the College of Science and Engineering, Medical School, Academic Health Center, law firms, surrounding med-tech industry, venture capitalists and angel investors. They then spend several weeks in a period of Clinical Immersion, where they put on scrubs and stand in the periphery of operating rooms and clinics and observe MD, nurses, and associated technicians at work.

After collecting unmet clinical needs, they will define the problem from all angles, using clinical literature as a guide. The Innovation Fellows work with UMN faculty collaborators from both engineering and medicine and interface with University technology transfer and licensing groups. They will innovate around unmet clinical needs for the duration of the fellowship. This includes multiple sets of prototyping cycles and bench top testing. In addition, the Innovation Fellows teach, share and learn by mentoring undergraduate and graduate student design teams from across the College of Science and Engineering, support the Design of Medical Devices Conference, and interact with the College of Design's Product Design Program.

The Bakken MDC provides a unique environment with extensive prototyping equipment, support staff and interface with the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. Our Bakken MDC Innovation Fellow sponsors are offered preferred access to both the new facilities and to new intellectual property.

The Innovation Fellows have been very successful, generating over 200 invention disclosures within the first eight years, 5 start-up companies, 88 patent applications, 26 product licenses from 48 current and alumni Fellows.

The Bakken MDC has many roles within the U of M including:

• Train the next generation of innovators through the Innovation Fellows Program
• Acceleration of interdisciplinary medical device Research and Development
• Distribute funding for creation of new medical devices based on a peer review process
• Focus on projects needing a boost to achieve national prominence and/or generate important Intellectual property
• Create a Core Lab with common use equipment for creative prototypes
• Facilitate connections to other Centers and Labs
• Support U of M functions related to medical devices
• Support the teaching/training programs of departments related to medical devices
• Actively interface with the medical device industry
• Focus on improvement of health care world-wide

Art Erdman, PhD is a long-time University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor and director of the Bakken MDC. Dr. Erdman has been a faculty member at the University since 1971, and holds more than 35 patents, many for medical devices. Dr. Erdman has collaborated with faculty in many departments within the Academic Health Center.

The Bakken Medical Devices Center, the Institute for Engineering in Medicine and the College of Science and Engineering have robust industrial advisory boards with leadership from Medtronic, Inc., Boston Scientific Corporation, St. Jude Medical, 3M, Minnetronix, AMS and many other leaders in the medical device industry. These relationships help us to train tomorrow’s innovators and collaborate on ongoing research projects.

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