The Path from Innovation to Impact in Global Health

Nora Petty

Current Skoll Scholar and Oxford MBA student Nora Petty gives her perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘The Path from Innovation to Impact in Global Health’.

Our approach to scaling-up healthcare pilots has been similar to how many people approach having their first child. As one participant at the delegate-run discussion ‘The Path from Innovation to Impact in Global Health’ pointed out, we tend to think “Great, we are pregnant now,” but not consider how we are going to raise the eventual child. Within global public health, this haphazard approach ends up inhibiting scale-up of successful pilots.

The Path from Innovation to Impact in Global Health, Priya Agrawal

Dr. Priya Agrawal, the Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, said that she had learned from working at Merck that pharmaceutical companies begin designing the entire value chain, from advocacy to commercialisation, for a new product while it’s still in the lab. This forward-look approach enables pharmaceutical companies to dramatically shorten the time period from innovation to implementation. Nonprofits and social enterprises could benefit from adopting a similar methodology.

Delegates agreed that nonprofits and social enterprises need to start planning how they are going to scale their business model from inception, and pilot projects should be developed with this ultimate end-goal in mind. One of the potential dark sides to donor funding is that it can lead organisations to develop unsustainable business models because they are not held accountable for costs at the start. For social enterprises, it is essential that their business models reflect their customers’ needs and the true business realities. For nonprofits, sustainability is often linked to the successful handover of pilot-level projects to Ministries of Health. This handover requires involvement of government counterparts from day zero, and their deep involvement, and buy-in of the ultimate model.

To be responsible parents for our innovations, we need to make better plans from the start to enable successful scaling of healthcare innovations.