The BCIT MAKE+ applied research group is collaborating with Providence Health Care (PHC) through Providence Research’s annual Skunkworks innovation competition. This collaboration is aimed at inspiring and developing new medical devices and health-related technologies, driven directly by insights and needs identified from the frontlines of care. The goal is to transform theoretical ideas into practical solutions that improve patient care and accessibility through the innovative use of technology. 

Skunkworks: The innovation catalyst

5 people presenting in front of an audience in a conference room
Team presents at Skunkworks event

Providence Research’s annual Skunkworks competition is a unique innovation event hosted by Providence Health Innovation, Research + Engagement (PHIR+E) in partnership with St. Paul’s Foundation. PHIR+E advances important research ideas by making vital connections between researchers and the resources they need to innovate, supporting the creation of new knowledge and solutions to healthcare challenges, and implementing those solutions in real-world settings.

It brings together multidisciplinary teams and empowers them with mentorship and rapid problem-solving tools to address healthcare challenges related to each year’s theme, which is chronic disease management and prevention for this year. The event offers a platform for individuals from various disciplines to collaborate and brainstorm healthcare solutions, ultimately presenting their ideas to a panel of judges. The winning teams receive funded expertise and support to make their proposed solutions a reality.

Skunkworks is designed to foster a culture of innovation within Providence Health Care by promoting critical thinking to solve complex local health challenges that have global implications. It bridges the gap between diverse individuals and populations, clinical research scientists, and medical professionals, aiming to tackle some of the most challenging health issues of our times.

Where BCIT MAKE+ fits in

3 people standing in front a computer on a cart
Nigel Halsted, Fardin Barekat, and Yvette Jones of MAKE+ working on foot pad.

BCIT MAKE+ has been an enthusiastic participant in the Skunkworks competition for several years, serving on the judging panel and providing expertise and support to the participants and winners.

The value of MAKE+ lies in its ability to turn innovative ideas into realizable solutions. By collaborating with clinical experts and leveraging advanced technologies, MAKE+ bridges the gap between the ideas generated in the competition and the practical development of them. This process teaches participants about the innovation process and ensures that promising ideas are nurtured into products that have the potential to significantly improve patient care.

“PHIR+E’s collaboration with MAKE+ aims to provide expertise to enable the people of Providence Health Care and Providence Research to maximize research impact and realize advances in healthcare,” says Ivone Martins, Executive Director, Providence Health Innovation, Research + Engagement (PHIR+E). “The expertise, experience, and rigor employed by MAKE+ have contributed greatly to both informing on the process of innovation and the development of specific ideas towards solutions.”

Ivone adds, “Our partnership with BCIT MAKE+ propels us towards product excellence and market success, helping to ensure research translates into tangible outcomes and optimizing products for both users and the healthcare system.”

Innovative submission gets the MAKE+ treatment

One notable success from this collaboration is the development of a proof of principle for a diabetic foot pad. The concept, proposed by the 2022 Skunkworks competition winners of the Research and Innovation award, was taken up by MAKE+ and transformed into a prototype using advanced technologies such as 3D printing. The shoe orthosis is designed to reduce pressure on the feet of individuals with diabetic neuropathy, a condition that can lead to severe complications, including amputation, if not properly managed. By alleviating and better managing pressure, the foot orthosis aims to mitigate injuries and improve overall health outcomes for diabetic patients. 

The MAKE+ team utilized a variety of skills and technologies on this project including 3D printing, 3D scanning, computer-aided design, product evaluation, and market analysis. They produced a viable proof of principle and conducted a high-level market analysis to understand the challenge, competitors, and requirements for the product.  

The development of the diabetic foot pad demonstrates the Skunkworks initiative in action. Clinicians and patient partners identified a critical need, and through collaboration with MAKE+, a practical solution was identified and brought to life. While this project is still in the early proof-of-principle stage, it demonstrates the process of bringing an idea to fruition and the key role MAKE+ plays. 

Man takes a 3D print out of 3D printer
Fardin Barekat in the Teck Innovation Hub working on the prototype

“This partnership epitomizes the MAKE+ purpose to create solutions for better lives,” says Jaimie Borisoff, Director, BCIT MAKE+. “We are always excited about partnering with groups that put the end-user of technology front and centre throughout the innovation process, since this underlies all the work we do.”

“Collaborating with Providence let’s our engineers and technologists work with healthcare users, both front-line staff and clients, ensuring the best possible solution to these real-world problems,” adds Jaimie.

Interdisciplinary partnerships

Interdisciplinary partnerships drive meaningful innovation in healthcare. By focusing on real-world problems identified by frontline clinicians, this initiative ensures that the solutions developed are both relevant and impactful. The work on the diabetic foot pad project underscores the potential of such collaborations to address significant health challenges and improve patient outcomes. 

Practical problem-solving together

As the Skunkworks competition continues to inspire innovative thinking and practical problem-solving, the partnership between MAKE+ and Providence Research stands as a testament to the power of collaborative efforts in advancing medical technology. Together, they are setting a new standard for how healthcare innovation can be approached, developed, and implemented, ultimately benefiting patients and the broader healthcare system. The anticipation for the 2024 Skunkworks event is high, with hopes that “Hacking Chronic Disease” will spark more groundbreaking innovations.  

Looking Ahead: Hacking chronic disease in 2024

The upcoming 2024 Skunkworks competition promises to build on past successes with its theme of “Hacking Chronic Disease.” Following the innovative strides made in previous events—Hacking Pain, Hacking Wounds, and Hacking Aging—this fourth Skunkworks event aims to be a catalyst for breakthrough solutions in chronic disease management. Chronic diseases present numerous challenges, and often researchers, healthcare professionals, caregivers, and patients do not have adequate opportunities to collaborate and share expertise to ideate together. The 2024 competition seeks to bridge this gap, providing a unique platform for interdisciplinary teams to converge and develop impactful solutions for chronic disease management.



The purpose of BCIT MAKE+ is to make lives better through creative solutions powered by interdisciplinary applied research. They do this by partnering with local stakeholders (industry, academic partners, and students) to create innovative technologies that impact lives and contribute to BC’s global competitiveness. 

MAKE+ is the only academic applied research group in Canada that conducts its activities under a certified ISO 13485 (Medical Devices) Quality Management System. This system ensures a rigorous product development path that includes comprehensive review, risk, and records management activities that creates the best outcomes for our partners. This user-driven innovation model is designed to lead to safe, effective, and commercially relevant products that improve the lives of people around the world.