New Innovation Officer Celine Vanhaverbeke started on ‘Smart Microsystems for Sports- & MedTech’

The MedTech market might already be further ahead on some levels than the SportsTech one, but it’s clear they’re both growing strong! Moreover, both from a technological, application as broader ecosystem point of view, there is a clear overlap e.g. between medical and sports wearables, for sure in the context of preventive and curative sports medical solutions. 

Ghent University recently decided to invest in ‘Innovation Officers’ to actively build more bridges between disciplines and application domains. A couple of months ago, we published a new vacancy for such an Innovation Officer. In January, we welcomed our new colleague Celine Vanhaverbeke! She will strengthen the business development centers  NB-Photonics business development center, e-poly center, Medteg, and our own Victoris in the development of innovative technologies within the domain of Smart Microsystems for Sports- & MedTech.

Celine will have a key role in stimulating and facilitating multi-disciplinary interaction within Ghent University and will work closely together with business developers Frederik Leys, Eva Ryckeboer, David Aubert and Kristof De Mey. She will stimulate and support both the creation and the valorization of new innovative ideas. Celine’s goal is to detect new opportunities for innovation with a potentially major economic and/or societal impact. She also guides research projects towards a proof-of-concept and a higher technology readiness level. This implies that she is getting involved in acquiring appropriate research funding for these projects.

Who is Celine Vanhaverbeke?

“I graduated in 2015 as a biomedical engineer at Ghent University. During my master thesis work, I focused on the creation of a liquid crystal display for applications in a smart contact lens at the CMST (Center for Microsystems Technology) research group. These displays can, for example, be used to create a so-called artificial iris which can aid people suffering from extreme light sensitivity caused by albinism, an iris tumor, iris defects due to a trauma, etc. This was my first close encounter with the technology behind smart microsystems.

As I was so intrigued by the technology driving the development of wearables and implantables, I decided to pursue a PhD at CMST with an ‘aspirant’ fellowship granted by the FWO (the Research Foundation – Flanders). My PhD research focused on the creation of thin, flexible and hermetic packaging for medical implants.

When designing an implant, diffusion of body fluids into the implant must be avoided to ensure that the functionalities of the implant are not affected and distorted in time. Additionally, materials from the implant cannot diffuse into the body in order to avoid toxic, allergic or immunologic reactions. Traditionally, implantable medical devices are packed in rigid housings allowing a hermetic packaging (think about the titanium case of a pacemaker). Unfortunately, rigid housings are large. This increases the risk of noteworthy tissue reactions, scar tissue formation and infection occurrence. By replacing the traditional rigid housings of implants by soft, flexible and thin packaging alternatives, a higher user comfort is obtained and minimal invasive implantation with less adverse reactions is possible.

To this end, I studied the use of thin ceramic materials deposited through a technique called atomic layer deposition (ALD).”

What was Celine’s motivation to take on the challenge to become an Innovation Officer in microsystems?

“After an in-depth focus on one specific aspect of implantables during my PhD, I felt it was time to look for new opportunities where I could be involved in research, but on a much broader level. In my role as Innovation Officer, I get a complete overview of the technological innovations which are taking place in the research groups involved in the smart microsystems domain.”

Moreover, I am in a unique position to help shape the future of Sports- and MedTech. I can build bridges between the research groups behind the technology and those groups in need of specific market-driven applications. Creating these valuable links to accelerate innovation in Sports- and MedTech is a strong personal motivator.

What did Celine learn so far about smart microsystems, e.g. sensors or wearables? 

Every day, technological advancements are realized which allow microsystems to become smaller and sensors to become more accurate. Additionally, higher data streams can be generated, processed and analyzed. These advancements in sensors allow the realization of wearables measuring a multitude of parameters relevant in sports (pressure, temperature, acceleration …). This information can improve athlete performance with the additional benefit of injury prevention. Other possible applications can be found in rehabilitation, controlled learning of new motions, strategic game planning, fair game judgement, increased fan involvement, etc. Probably there are a lot of other possibilities which we have not even thought about. I hope I can contribute considerably in detecting and shaping these opportunities.”

How can we work together? 

“First of all, I will get acquainted with the research activities and available technologies in the field of microsystems within Ghent University. This research is strongly concentrated within the Phononics Research Group (PRG, part of NB-Photonics) and the Center for Microsystems Technology (CMST, part of e-poly). With this technological backpack and the help of Kristof De Mey (Business Developer of Victoris) I will look for new bottom-up or market-driven application ideas based on the needs and feedback of the Victoris team. This will involve frequent discussions and brainstorms with the technological experts on the one hand, and the sports, movement and rehab scientists, on the other hand. As such, we’ll work closer together to create technological supported innovations with strong economic and societal value.”

Do you have any questions regarding microsystems for sports or medical applications? Don’t hesitate to contact kristof.demey@ugent.be to follow-up with Celine and the team!

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