In Mayo's $5.6B medical technology-focused neighborhood, culture and talent gaps are hurdles to innovation

An aerial illustration of the Destination Medical Center. (Perkins Eastman)

Anchored by the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, is working to become a showcase for healthcare innovation, but it faces two challenges: the healthcare industry’s aversion to risk and a talent gap the size of the Grand Canyon.

Destination Medical Center (DMC) is a 20-year, $5.6 billion economic development initiative “designed to position Minnesota as a global center for the highest quality medical care and to generate high-value jobs, new tax revenue and businesses,” according to the organization’s website. It is the largest public-private partnership in Minnesota state history, and one of the most significant economic development initiatives in the U.S.

DMC has six subdistricts, including Discovery Square, a mixed-use neighborhood that serves as a campus for not only Mayo but also biomedical, research, education and technology innovation.

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"Gone are the days where a company comes, wants to talk to a few physicians, thinks they have a good idea and they run off and develop a product that doesn't meet the patient need,” Mayo BioBusiness Center chair Jim Rogers tells Marketplace. “Gone are the days we think we can just do it ourselves. It needs to be partnership."

But there’s a natural culture schism between the old and new.

"When you have a large medical institution like the Mayo Clinic—a world renowned, top medical institution in the world—you get that way by eliminating risk,” Jamie Sundsbak, manager of a co-working space for startups in downtown Rochester, tells Marketplace. “If you look at some of the entrepreneurial communities, risk is what they are excited about."

There is also a substantial talent gap, sources tell Marketplace, as demand and competition for tech workers grows nationwide.

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