This month, 60 countries around the world are experiencing an ongoing outbreak of the Zika virus. New methods for personal protection, diagnostics, surveillance and preventing mosquitoes from spreading the virus are urgently needed.
Tackling a problem of this urgency and scale can’t rely on traditional methods - corporate or government funding of R&D followed by commercialisation of the results. These methods are too slow and the pool of talent they draw upon is too narrow. Instead, challenges of this scale need new, more agile methods which can draw the attention of a large community of innovators.
One way to do this is with challenge prizes. For example, USAID’s Grand Challenge for Development, ‘Combating Zika and Future Threats’, aims to tap into the collective intelligence of innovators around the world to tackle the problem. Launched in April 2016, the challenge will invest up to $30 million in innovations and interventions to mitigate the spread and impact of Zika.
Challenge prizes are just one example of initiatives to spur ‘open innovation’. Initially made famous by Henry Chesbrough, the concept of open innovation implies looking beyond traditional boundaries to find and implement new ideas from a much bigger community. While Chesbrough’s focus was on businesses, there is strong interest around the world in using new, more open methods to generate different kinds of solutions for public and social challenges. So how can these ideas be applied to healthcare systems? Can they help address some of the chronic issues faced by healthcare systems around the world - not only in bringing forward new drugs or technologies, but in changing behaviour and systems?
This is what we’re hoping to explore in a new collaboration designed to promote open innovation in the healthcare system in São Paulo. Sponsored by the UK’s Prosperity Fund, the project is a partnership between Nesta and a range of Brazilian partners, including (among others) the State Government of São Paulo, Carlos Alberto Vanzolini Foundation [Portuguese] and FIA (Fundação Instituto de Administração). Through this project we hope to learn more about how open innovation in healthcare can be promoted at a system level, generating insights that are useful not only for São Paulo but societies around the world.
We’ll start with research: what do we mean by an ‘open’ healthcare innovation system? If we mean a system that is more open and porous to ideas, who should it be open to - patients, citizens, healthcare professionals, SMEs, entrepreneurs and startups, civil society, designers/creatives, others? Where are the opportunities for opening up systems (framing research priorities, coming up with new ideas to detailed service design, bringing new products to market and co-delivering services, developing new drugs and healthcare technologies)? How can systems organise themselves so that new ideas from outside can take root and become successfully implemented? Along the way, we plan to collect and map some of the most innovative models that are being used around the world, from challenge prizes to user generated innovation platforms.
Following this, we’ll be working with Nesta spin-out 100%Open, a company with deep expertise in the co-creation of new products and services through open innovation, to organise prototyping workshops with local partners in Brazil. These workshops will advise the design of a practical pilot, to be run by our Brazilian partners which will seek to put some of these ideas into practice in a rapid pilot in the Adolfo Lutz research institute in Sao Paulo. Finally, we’re going to create a guide on how to support open innovation in the health care, for practitioners and policymakers around the world.
Where are the world's best models of open innovation in health?
In the spirit of openness, we’re going to be blogging and sharing updates throughout the project, so please check back here regularly. We have also created a Google Doc where you can share models of open innovation in healthcare that you have seen around the world. This will be a living document throughout the duration of the project so please check back regularly for for updates and inspiration.
This blog was produced in partnership with David Simoes-Brown from 100%Open.
Image credit: chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons