This paper describes the practice of research and design of ophthalmic medical devices and the confrontation with sustainability questions. The ophthalmic medical devices industry sector is far away from sustainability innovations currently. The confrontation is developed on the basis of a scientific dialogue between the two authors about their respectively daily R&D practices and sustainability research.
The strong regulation rules and the risk-elimination in safety policy determine a small playing field for changes on the basis of sustainability. The regulation is even different per country. That means that changes have to be tested in several regulatory situations and cultural settings.
The strict requirements in the medical sector also mean that a starting sustainability dialogue needs to follow the theory about the introduction and dissemination of new concepts: information sharing, awareness raising, recognition, acknowledgement, commitment, education, assessment of opportunities, demonstration projects, evaluation, and continuous improvement. Such emerging sustainability dialogue in an industrial sector often meets reluctance from companies and resistance to start an assessment process. When there is a medical professional market, the demands and needs of medical staff are strongly determining the R&D space. Risk-elimination in the health treatment of patients is a major component of safety policy in the medical sector.
In general however, leading companies foresee growing environmental pressures and want to explore the opportunities of new sustainability business models. In such context, medical product R & D can consider aspects such as product waste prevention, energy use, cleaning, maintenance, recycling, reuse (in developing countries), and leasing.
The paper dialogues conceptual thinking about eco-design of ophthalmic medical devices on the basis of both practical R & D experience in the ophthalmic medical devices company D.O.R.C. International in the Netherlands as well as academic sustainability research.