How can we unlock and scale innovation through partnerships to achieve the SDGs?

Business innovations in technologies, products, services and business and financing models will be essential tools for the successful delivery of almost every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), with the potential to transform the lives of the world’s poor through greater access to the essential drivers for human development including food, water, sanitation, healthcare, energy, education, and more.    

Examples of promising innovations exist in almost every sphere of development but relatively few end up achieving a meaningful level of impact at scale.  Instead many remain stuck at pilot stage because, amongst other things, they fail to attract the necessary finance, distribution networks and technical support to enable them to scale, sustainably.

While business plays a key role in leading innovation, whether by multinational corporations, national companies, small and medium firms or social enterprises, achieving and sustaining success at scale is also highly dependent on a supportive “innovation ecosystem” of partners including universities, foundations, development agencies, civil society organisations, incubators and accelerators, and governments.

As GSK and Save the Children launch their annual $1 million Healthcare Innovation Award, which supports innovations in healthcare that help to reduce child deaths in developing countries, this online discussion will explore the following questions:

  • What role will innovation play in achieving the SDGs? How can the SDGs help build and strengthen the ecosystem for innovation?  What roles can different sectors best play? 
  • What are some of the key drivers and barriers to innovations reaching scale sustainably and what are the essential enabling conditions required for success?
  • What principles and processes do partnerships between business and the development community need in place to help drive innovation? What are some good examples and what can we learn from them?

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One of my favorite examples of mastering the entire pathway from innovation, to marketing, to community involvement to last mile distribution is Kickstart International - innovators of the treadle water irrigation pump and its distribution to the poorest farmers in the most remote areas. Their model is extremely well proven thanks to their own dedication to outcomes measurement. www.kickstart.org

But, are these models mutually exclusive? It seems to me that market creation will need, in time,  to be sustained and made more efficient to contribute to achievement of SDGs.

Jolene Dawson said:

The private sector recognizing innovation in new digital technologies and business models as a critical requirement to achieving the SDGs. In the Accenture UNGC CEO Study, 1,000 CEOs were surveyed and 97% reported that they believe sustainability is important to the future success of their business, with 75 percent of CEOs saying that digital technologies enable more sustainable business models.

The way business and development is currently run is focused on a linear models (Input –> Process –> Output). In the new digital world we find ourselves in, business models, funding models and indeed operating and delivery models are all being influenced to be more collaborative, with multiple inputs, processes and outputs all running simultaneously. These new circular and collaborative models increase the speed and complexity of the work being done, but also have major potential to increase impact. Innovation is the key to enabling the business and development communities to work together in a highly fluid environment to achieve the anticipated outcomes of the SDG’s by 2030.

Innovation comes in different forms, but the innovations that are remembered over time are those that are most disruptive. According to Clay Christensen and his work in the Harvard Business Review, “Disruptive Innovation” there are 3 type so of Innovation:

-          Efficiency Innovation: that makes more product/service with less input, these innovations erode jobs, but frees up capital for growth

-          Sustaining Innovations: that make good products better through new features, these innovations maintain both jobs and margins

-          Market Creating Innovations: that create growth and jobs through creating new markets and new products/services

 

In my opinion, it is these Market Creating innovations that are most important to the delivery of the SDG’s and driving their intended outcomes as they are the most disruptive – these are the innovations that shift paradigms and bring about new ways of working and thinking. Efficiency and sustaining innovations will also contribute, but in smaller measure and more incrementally.



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Let's kick off with our first set of questions:

What role will innovation play in achieving the SDGs? How can the SDGs help build and strengthen the ecosystem for innovation?  What roles can different sectors best play?

Market creation naturally becomes self-sustaining if the services/products meet the needs of locals.

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