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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Hi Everyone, I'm Devyani Parameshwar, Principal Manager for M-Pesa Commercial Strategy at Vodafone. Alongside our teams in Africa and Asia, I work on M-Pesa’s commercial strategy with a focus on the proposition for businesses, international organisations and financial service organisations.

Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Welcome to this online discussion! I'd like to start by asking our great panel to introduce themselves.

Innovation will play a myriad of roles in the SDGs. What’s interesting is how we capture those innovations that are working best now and scale them up using innovative approaches, business models and funding streams. If we don’t start scaling now we will miss the goals. The SDGs could provide the focus disparate actors need to come together and support innovations to scale around specific targets. For example, low cost private schooling is showing great promise across Africa as approach. So much more could be achieved in scaling up innovations like this if public, private and social sectors worked together to get the finances, policy and operations supportive of scale. 



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?

Innovation is an essential ingredient for achieving the SDGs. The fact that deeply entrenched social issues have persisted beyond the MDG era is itself a sign that there is a need for new, fresh ideas that bring together the very best of the non-profit, for-profit, government, and social sectors. The more we can leverage skills and capabilities across sectors and find innovative ways to work together, the better equipped we will be to achieve the SDGs. 

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?

I think what is really interesting about the innovation is that is an overused word, so knowing exactly what we mean by that is a challenge by itself.

Marcela and I deeply believe that many of the solutions to some of industries (and therefore the world) grandest challenges already exist today  they are just not scaling at the rate and the pace that they need to.

So I would challenge that the role innovation could play in achieving the SDGs is not just creating the innovations but providing the enabling conditions to accelerate / commercialise them.



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?

Innovation has a central role to play in meeting the SDGs and we need to think more creatively and flexibly now we have a wide-ranging agenda covering such broad range of issues. New creative solutions and partnerships help unlock potential and deliver more – one size fits all solutions won’t work. We will need new tools and interventions if we are to meet the SDGs by 2030 and we need innovative ways of utilising existing interventions.

 

The SDGs give us a new framework to structure our innovation and work cross-sectorally to deliver on it and encourage us to make the connections and synergies across the Goals.

 

Each sector can bring different advantages to the process and we all must start thinking outside the box in terms of the way they operate – business as usual will not achieve the SDGs. Most will choose to focus on the Goals that can best be met through services provided by their area of expertise. GSK concentrates on Goal 3, relating to healthcare which is our area of expertise. In terms of achieving UHC, all sectors have a role to play – from a healthcare perspective we are focused on better access to healthcare but clearly education and nutritional needs are also important factors in leading to a healthier population.

If we keep doing the same things then we will keep getting the same results.  Improving on current practices will undoubtedly lead to incremental improvements but transformational change needed to acheive the SDGs can't happen without innovation.SDG 17 in particular underscores the importance of partnership, recognising that no single individual, organisation or sector has the answer, and indeed taken collectively, one can see that the SDGs themselves are not discrete challenges but are in fact all interconnected.

The SDG’s need to be delivered through partnerships to achieve scale and systemic impact. The MDG’s were a concentrated group of objectives that could be delivered in isolation. The SDG’s however, require business, governments and development agents to work together to achieve them, and impact delivered on one focussed SDG will have knock-on effects across several other SDG’s. For example, work cannot be done on improving SDG 3 - good health and well-being, without also influencing SDG 1 - no poverty, SDG 2 - zero hunger, 6 - clean water and sanitation, SDG 8 - decent work and economic growth, SDG 12 – responsible consumption and production and others.

For me, the most critical SDG is SDG17 - Partnerships for the Goals – as this is the core enabler of ecosystem strengthening. When focussing on how business can leverage innovation to deliver the SDG’s the Accenture UNGC CEO study 2016 highlights that

-          90% of business feel a personal responsibility to ensure their business has a clear purpose and roles in society,

-          87% believe that the SDG’s provide an opportunity to rethink approaches,

-          78%  already see opportunities to contribute to the SDG’s through their business, and

49% of the CEO’s believe that business is the most important actor in  delivering the SDG’s – a clear shift from previous thinking where general sentiment was governments must drive the MDG’s.

Innovation is key to achieving the SDGs. Current cost structures and delivery models will not ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for all, or availability of water and sanitation for all, for example.

 

The SDGs provide the impetus for companies, governments, academia, NGOs, donors and a range of other players to rally around specific causes with some urgency. It creates the risk and investment appetite needed for innovation.

 

Innovation can come from any sector, and I’m inclined to say we shouldn’t type-cast sectors to limit innovation to any one sector. That said, the Government’s ability to create an enabling regulatory framework to allow the private sector and the development community to operate at scale is important.



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?

Thanks this Jolene, is this report available online?

Jolene Dawson said:

The SDG’s need to be delivered through partnerships to achieve scale and systemic impact. The MDG’s were a concentrated group of objectives that could be delivered in isolation. The SDG’s however, require business, governments and development agents to work together to achieve them, and impact delivered on one focussed SDG will have knock-on effects across several other SDG’s. For example, work cannot be done on improving SDG 3 - good health and well-being, without also influencing SDG 1 - no poverty, SDG 2 - zero hunger, 6 - clean water and sanitation, SDG 8 - decent work and economic growth, SDG 12 – responsible consumption and production and others.

For me, the most critical SDG is SDG17 - Partnerships for the Goals – as this is the core enabler of ecosystem strengthening. When focussing on how business can leverage innovation to deliver the SDG’s the Accenture UNGC CEO study 2016 highlights that

-          90% of business feel a personal responsibility to ensure their business has a clear purpose and roles in society,

-          87% believe that the SDG’s provide an opportunity to rethink approaches,

-          78%  already see opportunities to contribute to the SDG’s through their business, and

49% of the CEO’s believe that business is the most important actor in  delivering the SDG’s – a clear shift from previous thinking where general sentiment was governments must drive the MDG’s.

As I see it, the public sector is well placed to articulate the needs and priorities of citizens, and create an environment for these to be met.  The social sector is well placed to support those most in need, providing them with a voice as well as interventions, and the private sector , in an enabled and welcoming environment, is well placed to provide sustainable and scaled solutions.

It is important that partnerships between business, government and development sector are able to achieve shared value through multi-dimensional impact - economic, social, and environmental – and innovative digital solutions will enable them to do that. A few examples:

-          1.6 billion people could benefit from more accessible, affordable and better quality medical services through e-healthcare, while connected road vehicle solutions could save up to 720,000 lives annually and prevent up to 30 million traffic injuries (SDG#3 – Good Health and Well Being)

-          ICT sector companies could gain USD 2.1 trillion in additional annual revenue by 2030 from services that directly contribute to SDG achievement, which includes USD 400 billion per year from connecting 2.5 billion people by 2030. Moreover, USD 1.7 trillion could be realized from digital services such as e-Commerce, e-Work, smart buildings, e-Government, and online learning.

-          Digital solutions like the Internet of Things and robotics can help bring economic benefits of up to USD 1 trillion by supporting industries such as smart manufacturing and smart logistics (SDG#9 – Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure)

-          Digital solutions could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive market transformation for renewables, cutting carbon emissions by around 20 percent in 2030 (SDG#13 – Climate Action)



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?


Hi Priya, 

Love this and to build upon your roles - on top of every sector being able to play a role I think there is also an interesting piece around the cross cutting roles. Ie. 

Research - could push for greater integration and application to live private sector environments and indeed hear and heed the voice of the different stages of investment (seed, venture, institutional) that will get these new solutions to scale, so that the foundational research is speaking in a common syntax from day one.  

Priya Madina said:

Innovation has a central role to play in meeting the SDGs and we need to think more creatively and flexibly now we have a wide-ranging agenda covering such broad range of issues. New creative solutions and partnerships help unlock potential and deliver more – one size fits all solutions won’t work. We will need new tools and interventions if we are to meet the SDGs by 2030 and we need innovative ways of utilising existing interventions.

 

The SDGs give us a new framework to structure our innovation and work cross-sectorally to deliver on it and encourage us to make the connections and synergies across the Goals.

 

Each sector can bring different advantages to the process and we all must start thinking outside the box in terms of the way they operate – business as usual will not achieve the SDGs. Most will choose to focus on the Goals that can best be met through services provided by their area of expertise. GSK concentrates on Goal 3, relating to healthcare which is our area of expertise. In terms of achieving UHC, all sectors have a role to play – from a healthcare perspective we are focused on better access to healthcare but clearly education and nutritional needs are also important factors in leading to a healthier population.

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