Published on 10/07/2024
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Podcast microphones
  • Pasi Sorvisto from SPARK Europe spoke to Luke Southan about Stanford University’s SPARK programme
  • SPARK provides support to bring healthcare research discoveries for unmet clinical needs to market
  • Sorvisto learnt about start-up funding in Silicon Valley and used the knowledge to set up SPARK Finland

Researchers working on major unmet clinical needs often struggle to bring their discoveries to market because of challenges such as finding the right funding and setting up clinical trials.

A new Aston Originals podcast series will show how the SPARK The Midlands programme, hosted at Aston University, is working with health tech researchers to bridge the gap between lab and patient.

SPARK The Midlands based at Aston University and part of the West Midlands Health Tech Innovation Accelerator (WMHTIA) supports the earliest high impact preclinical innovations across the West Midlands Combined Authority. Launched in January 2024, SPARK The Midlands is the first UK branch of Stanford University's prestigious global SPARK programme.

In the first in the new podcast seriesSPARKing up The Midlands, Pasi Sorvisto, the founder and director of SPARK Finland and director of SPARK Europe, speaks to SPARK The Midlands director Luke Southan who also leads the technology transfer function of Aston University.

Sorvisto said:

“Many times I hear that the industry is judging the scientists. They don't understand this or that or the physicians don't understand or nurses don't understand. But it's unjustified to blame them because they have zero education for that. This is something that's so important to me as we grow this programme and try and expand it around the UK.

“I talk about conversational fluency. I want clinicians who have this massive unmet need and have an idea for a solution to solve it, to understand how to begin, how you start to go on this journey, and I want them to have a friendly network of other clinicians who have done it.”

Sorvisto tells Southan how working in Silicon Valley in the US helped him to understand also how to build new products and new businesses, and how that led to the creation of SPARK Finland and the European SPARK network. The two also discuss the differences between the numerous global SPARK networks.

Listen to the full podcast on the Aston Originals YouTube channel. In future episodes, Southan will speak to members of SPARK The Midlands to learn how the programme is benefitting them.

Notes to editors

About Aston University

For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.

Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.

Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming the Guardian University of the Year in 2020.

Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Helen Tunnicliffe, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7827 090240 or email:

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Sue Smith,
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Sam Cook,
Press and Communications Manager


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Helen Tunnicliffe,
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