University of Minnesota
Institute of Technology
myU OneStop


Electrical and Computer Engineering

"Medical Alley": The Rise of the Minnesota Medical Device Industry

David Rhees, Ph.D.
Executive Director
The Bakken Museum

This paper analyzes the factors that led to the establishment in Minnesota of a thriving network
of advanced medical device firms sometimes referred to as "Medical Alley."  Factors examined
include a favorable "business-technology infrastructure" that included the University of Minnesota,
the migration of high-tech professionals from other industries, the emergence of specialized
services and suppliers, the availability of capital, government encouragement, and support from
trade associations. The seminal role of Medtronic, Inc., founded in1949, is examined, particularly
the invention of the first wearable cardiac pacemaker by the company's co-founder Earl Bakken
in 1957 and Medtronic's licensing of the first fully implantable pacemaker developed by Wilson
Greatbatch and William Chardack in 1960. Some of the major spin-off's from Medtronic will be
examined, particularly CPI (now part of Boston Scientific) and St. Jude Medical.