Jax Chamber: Taking a new approach to find solutions

Open innovation helps identify needs and problems and then asks the community for solutions.

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  • | 10:00 a.m. September 16, 2021
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To help foster innovation in Northeast Florida, JAX Chamber Chief Innovation Officer Carlton Robinson wanted to take a different approach than the chamber had taken in the past. 

In a method called open innovation, Robinson said he and the chamber decided to work with some of the region’s largest health care providers, identify their needs and problems, and put a call out to the community with solutions. 

“The more and more I researched that concept, I thought the chamber could be a really good centerpiece because we have a relationship with the small business community and we have a relationship with the corporate community and we’re trusted,” he said.

“We put something in place, worked with three or four large enterprises to identify their use cases and we put that out to the entrepreneur community.”

The chamber put out the call to innovate in March. It was the first project for the chamber’s Open Innovation Center at the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center in LaVilla.

Sean Hall, founder of Hangtech LLC, a health care software development company.
Sean Hall, founder of Hangtech LLC, a health care software development company.

Robinson said the chamber partnered with Brooks Rehabilitation, UF Health Jacksonville and Florida Blue/Guidewell. 

The call to innovate had about 50 applications, he said. Those were pared down to seven finalists, who were selected based on how well they solved the issue posed by the company.

Pitches came from five states, Robinson said. 

“It was a really good exercise for us and it’s a format we can continue in other areas,” he said. 

Finalists’ products included an app for teledentistry to encourage preventive care, a remote patient monitoring device, a virtual care platform designed by doctors, and a health services listing hub that provides users with health care services based on their needs. 

Sean Hall, founder of Hangtech LLC, a health care software development company, pitched a post-surgical neurological tracking app that can track pupil size, heart rate and other symptoms so doctors can check on patients virtually as they recover. 

He responded to Florida Blue/Guidewell and UF Health Jacksonville’s request to deliver virtual care in underserved communities for in-home programs such as rehab, self-management, pain programs and post-surgery recovery.

Hall was connected to UF Health Jacksonville to help implement the technology and is working with the hospital on more of its software development needs.

The goal of the call to innovate wasn’t to serve as an incubator and help entrepreneurs develop their products, but rather connect them to companies that have a problem they can solve. 

“Once you get into these types of technologies, we’re really just facilitating and making introductions and relationships,” Robinson said.

“The technology, we’re not experts in that area. That’s why I thought if we can position ourselves as a vetting mechanism for quality entrepreneurs and make those introductions to the corporations, the majority of which are our members, that could be a really good thing for our community.”

Robinson plans another call to innovate by year-end. It could be health care related, but other industries could include financial technology or logistics.

“For us as a chamber of commerce, a regional economic development organization, I think this is the right position for us.”