Innovation Keeps Colorado Springs Businesses on the Cutting Edge

By Carol Cowan on April 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm EST
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What does a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families have in common with a company that manufactures medical devices?

The surprising answer is innovation. The introduction of new ideas, methods and products is what keeps these and other established Colorado Springs businesses on the cutting edge of their respective industries.

The nonprofit Focus on the Family is no stranger to innovation. The organization has continually expanded its outreach by making the most of communication technology, including print, broadcast and the Internet.

For an organization that defines success in terms of influence, finding new ways to get its message across ranks high on the priority list.

“We want to know how we can help the most people,” says Rob Flanegin, vice president of Innovations and Research at Focus on the Family. “We measure impact like other businesses measure profit.”

About two years ago, the organization created a department solely devoted to finding ways to increase that impact.

The Innovations and Research department looks at issues relevant to the organization’s concerns – from modern human slavery to the ways technology is changing the consumption of media – and comes up with a process to address them.

“Our process is highly team-based,” Flanegin says. The teams, made up of employees from various departments, participate in a three-step process of discovery, brainstorming and prototyping.

“No idea is too crazy – in fact, we encourage crazy ideas,” he adds.

The Innovations area looks something like a school art room, with colorful sticky notes lining the walls and scale models and posters under construction on tables.

The most promising ideas go from innovation to incubation, where they are developed for six months to a year before being implemented.

Another innovator and 18-year veteran in the Colorado Springs business community is CEA Technologies Inc. CEA Technologies is a contract designer and manufacturer of medical devices.

While CEA Technologies does not actually invent products, it does provide input to clients to help them turn their ideas into viable, usable products that will stand up under the rigorous demands of medical-industry practitioners and sterilization processes.

“We have no proprietary product of our own,” says Steve Wychulis, CEA Technologies’ director of corporate development. “Our customers approach us with an idea, and we develop and manufacture it for them.”

“Our customers’ baseline expectation is quality, cost-effective devices. We offer that quicker. In this industry, speed to market is everything. And we have – and offer to our customers – significant experience in making sure that manufacturing outcomes are consistent.”

A state-of-the-art facility completed in 2001 provides a controlled environment free of particulate matter with four “clean rooms,” as well as full assembly, injection molding and ultrasonic welding capabilities.

The addition of a near-shore facility in the Dominican Republic allows the now global company to offer cost-effective options for labor-intensive products.

Innovation even extends to the business practices at CEA Technologies. In recent years, the company began a concerted effort to build strategic partnerships, Wychulis says.

The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center and other area workforce and economic development organizations are its current partners, and the company is actively pursuing a partnership with the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs.

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