Aug 16

Interrogation of ‘inclusive innovation’ concept

Is the Tata Nano an example of ‘inclusive innovation?  What about solar lighting?  How do we determine what is inclusive or pro-poor? Is it about the degree of income generation or saving that is created? The degree of viable business opportunity that a new product creates? Or is it about the process of innovation around the product more generally?

On 6-8 July researchers from around the world gathered at the Open University, UK to discuss these questions and particularly what we mean by ‘inclusive innovation’.  Over one and a half days using a range of interactive sessions – many conducted outside in the sunshine as the UK basked in an heat wave – researchers considered how their own standpoint – and not just current research results – determine how we think about inclusive innovation.  On the last morning we asked a range of policy stakeholders to join us so that we could see how current academic thinking matches the policies and programmes currently being put forward by donors and NGOs.

The workshop set out with the following aims:

  • Further our understanding of the role of innovation in the distributional outcomes of growth, particularly in the context of developing economies
  • Develop a holistic understanding of the dimensions of inclusive innovation
  • Identify the major knowledge gaps in our understanding of inclusive innovation and the role which it plays in the distributional outcomes of growth
  • Identify policies which might mitigate the exclusionary impacts and further the inclusionary impacts of innovation
  • Identify the key stakeholders who might further these policy objectives
  • Identify the circumstances in which these key stakeholders can work together to achieve these aims

No definitive outputs were arrived upon by the end of the event to any of these aims.  However, for me, the workshop did result in recognition of the importance of multiple voices in this discussion area and the opportunities that are created from multiple voices.  The discussions highlighted the need for multiple voices from a range of perspectives in order to ensure the complexity of this very area is not lost in any attempt to formalize research in the area of inclusive innovation.  Diversity of opinion and debate is essential at this burgeoning period of research in inclusive innovation.

Further discussion on this topic will occur at Globelics 2013 conference being held in Ankara, Turkey on 11-13 September during a roundtable discussion on ‘inclusive innovation’.  This roundtable will start with two short presentations of examples of inclusive innovation from the health and energy sectors.  These will be used to stimulate discussion on the multiple approaches to inclusive innovation as relating to:

  • Innovations for and/or by the poor
  • The poor as consumers, and/or as producers
  • Innovation in products and/or services
  • Innovations as final consumer goods and/or intermediate and capital goods
  • Innovations by particular types of stakeholders and/or in collaborations between different stakeholders
  • Spillovers between innovation for the bottom billion (<$1pd) markets and the “second bottom billion” (<$2pd>$1pd) markets
  • Strategic choices between alternative developmental trajectories, at the levels of national industrial or distributional policies, sectoral specialisation, or specific innovation systems.

*by Rebecca Hanlin, Senior Lecturer in Development Policy and Practice, Open University

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