Chronic pain patients can get help from a new collaboration

10th February 2021

Both businesses and universities have benefited from innovative cooperation. A company from the North part of Denmark complements the researchers from Aalborg University, and together they have developed a solution that will help chronic pain patients in the long run.

One has knowledge and data – the other builds the machine.

One can see the connection to the patients – the other can develop the technology needed.

Kristian Kjær Petersen from the university and Poul Pedersen from the business world have got their competencies playing together, so they now create innovation for the benefit of future patients.

– We complement each other well. You could say, I know what a solution should be, and Poul knows how to build it. We need each other’s competencies, and there should be many more partnerships like ours, says Kristian Kjær Petersen, associate professor at the Department of Health Science and Technology at Aalborg University.

– It is very rewarding to work with the university. In the company we have a lot of unknown factors and then we suddenly find out that there are actually answers to our questions – we just have to ask the right places, says Poul Pedersen, project manager in the company Cortex Technology.

Poul Pedersen and Kristian Kjær Petersen are part of the innovation network Danish Healthtech. They have collaborated on the sub-project ‘Development and testing of apparatus for measuring hyperactivity in the central nervous system in chronic pain patients’.

Innovation takes time

Kristian Kjær Petersen and Poul Pedersen’s sub-project has aimed to develop a user-friendly, transportable device that can measure how the central nervous system responds to various forms of pain. The project shows that it is possible to measure activity in the nervous system and that it is possible to influence these activities by using medical treatment.

Poul Pedersen and Kristian Kjær Petersen found a good division of labour, where they each contribute with their competencies to the common goal.

– We agree that innovation cannot be squeezed into a tight schedule. We need to respect each other’s knowledge and give each other space to unfold our ideas. We must dare to think untraditionally – otherwise, the solution will not be innovative, Kristian Kjær Petersen explains.

– We think of our partnership as a long-term investment. When ideas suddenly arise for other new solutions, we must have time to seize them, so that they may be taken up again later, says Poul Pedersen.

Caption: Associate Professor Kristian Kjær Petersen, Aalborg University, has in collaboration with the company Cortex Technology developed a device for pain monitoring.

Get help with administration and finances

It was not without considerations that Cortex Technology joined Danish Healthtech.

– Our biggest concern was whether the administration of the project would be too heavy and time-consuming for a small company like ours, and we probably share that concern with many other SMEs, says Poul Pedersen.

Fortunately, Aalborg University was ready to take on the task in collaboration with Cortex Technology. Charlotte Villadsen, chief consultant at the Department of Health Science and Technology has been the administrative lead and has followed the project participants from the start.

– The purpose of Danish Healthtech is to make sure that the knowledge at universities is utilized in the companies. Therefore, it has been an exciting task to follow the project and learn where we encounter challenges and then support a solution, says Charlotte Villadsen.

She continues:

– We cannot expect companies to have the resources for the administrative tasks – we have to take care of that making sure the companies can focus on developing. They have been extremely good at this, and it whets one’s appetite here at the knowledge institutions when we can see that our knowledge and data contribute to socially beneficial solutions, says Charlotte Villadsen.

Pieces of advice from Cortex and Alborg University’s subproject in Danish Healthtech

  • There must be time and space to think untraditionally
  • The ideas that are not used now may be used later
  • There is a barrier between research institutions and companies – it takes hard work to break it down, but it pays off
  • You should seek help for the areas you do not have the resources for, ex. administration and finance.

Ready for more collaboration

Kristian Kjær Petersen and Poul Pedersen’s pain measuring device has so far been implemented in several national and international studies, and it has been possible to obtain additional funding for e.g. studies on patients with painful osteoarthritis of the knee, patients with low back pain, or patients at risk of pain after surgery.

Cortex Technology has made several new contacts in the knowledge environment, and Poul Pedersen already has ideas for future collaborations:

– Whether you want it or not, there is a barrier between the research institutions and the companies, and it probably takes many projects like this to be able to say that there is a knowledge bridge. But now we at Cortex Technology are at least up and running, and we look forward to collaborating with the researchers on new projects in the future, says Poul Pedersen.

– Projects like these improve knowledge transfer between research institutions and companies and remove the barriers that hinder collaboration. In Cortes Technology we look forward to collaborating with the researchers on new projects, says Poul Pedersen.

Facts about Danish Healthtech

The Innovation Network Danish Healthtech is based on a unique kind of partnership within health technology. The Innovation Network Danish Healthtech consists of a strong partnership with four Danish regions, which ensures access to clinical collaboration in the broader health service. Five universities and two technical institutes are strong knowledge partners, and as a whole, the network is part of a national ecosystem that has been built up over ten years.

It ensures that knowledge-bridge activities are created across the whole healthcare sector, which is an essential element in many of the challenges we face in terms of prevention and urban technology.


Written by Lotte Overbjerg, journalist at Welfare Tech

Photo: Pixabay and Kristian Kjær Petersen

Contact: Charlotte Villadsen, partner in Danish Healthtech, chief consultant, Department of Health Science and Technology, Aalborg University, cvi@hst.aau.dk

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