“Health innovations continue to play a fundamental role in promoting equitable and quality low-cost solutions addressing existing and arising healthcare issues in developing countries.”

By Phidilliah Mwaambi, co-authored by Marloes Kibacha and Nduta Kuria

Investment in health innovations not only transforms lives but also improves the quality of life for many individuals, especially vulnerable groups in society. Therefore, it is key for every stakeholder to seek to support the scale-up of health innovations beyond the proof-of-concept stage and help innovators grow so as to provide continuous access to affordable healthcare solutions for better health outcomes.

Innovation is the bedrock of developing, growing and building a sustainable economy. It also provides every nation with the opportunity to create new products and services that improve efficacy, efficiency and quality while providing a competitive edge at an affordable price. Investment in innovation, especially in developing countries, is a strategic pathway to growing and expanding the economy and creating employment for the growing population. At a local level, it provides the means to developing feasible, applicable and scalable solutions to existing and recurring problems while at an international level it translates to setting the pace for investing in research and development for innovations that are context specific.

Innovation is crucial to the achievement of the sustainable development goals
Innovations in health in the developing world have enabled health sectors to embrace solutions that provide quality care to their citizens. The impact of these innovations can be seen in the dynamic improvement of health indicators (i.e., reproductive, maternal, and child health). However, scaling innovations has proven to be a task due to existing barriers. This may particularly be attributed to the technical support and capacity required by the innovators when setting up the plan of scale throughout the cycle of the innovation. By understanding the prerequisites to establishing an innovation, including a business perspective i.e, cost market entry strategy, distribution network and scale, an innovator will have the basics of setting the stage of growth for the innovation and the organization itself. As a result, the innovator will be able to achieve sustainability and growth and have room for research and development of its innovation as it grows in the health market.

Innovators and stakeholder support = sustainable impact
In order to successfully achieve growth, innovators need to understand that scaling requires stakeholder involvement at every stage of the innovation cycle. Stakeholder involvement is a crucial component that cannot be ignored by the innovator. Specifically, innovators who seek to scale within the public health sector will be required to have a background understanding of the priority areas of the public health sector to solving existing and or recurring health issues. This will enable them to align the innovation with the priority areas of the public health sector and equip them to narrow down on the specific stakeholders they need to target. Thus, stakeholder mapping is important to the innovator, as it helps them to know and understand the role of each stakeholder including their responsibilities and deliverables to the public health sector.

Strategic partnerships with the public and private sector

The public health sector does not function in a silo but in collaboration with the private health sector, development and smart partners who share a common interest in contributing towards better health outcomes. This expands the pool of possible stakeholders to those who collaborate with the public health
sector to address health issues. In order to build a strong foundation for stakeholder engagement, innovators should develop a criteria of stakeholder involvement based on a stakeholder influence and interest matrix, which largely affects the decisions made as a joint task force to ensure the innovation is successful. Hence, stakeholder mapping is amongst one of the most important recurring steps that an innovator has to consider at every stage of innovation cycle (idea generation and mobilization -> advocacy and screening -> experimentation -> commercialisation -> diffusion and mobilization).

The joint efforts of both the innovator and stakeholder, especially the public health sector, will help point out the different strategies that can be put in place to foster sustainability and growth to scale. Through this, the innovator will have the capacity to develop solutions to the multiple barriers related to scaling new innovations, including fragmented and immature markets, limited skill sets of team technical support, varying expectations from investors and stakeholders, legal barriers and limited expertise to market-entry strategy. Innovators can achieve this by structuring and implementing a bespoke strategic engagement plan right from innovation inception. A strategic engagement plan is a blueprint for the successful involvement of various stakeholders with similar interests who are most likely to support the innovation to achieving scale and growth. It also presents the innovator with a multifaceted approach to successfully overcome any barriers they may face, including funding support, which is a key component of scaling up the innovation.
The strategic engagement plan serves as a roadmap for the innovator to involve the public health sector to endorse the innovation and advocate for partnerships to support and foster uptake in the health industry. Support from the public health sector, in collaboration with the private health sector, builds a solid foundation that will attract investors to engage with innovators, which eventually instigates a culture of innovation. Implementation of the strategic engagement plan requires innovators to have an in-depth understanding of public health sector structure, priority areas, policies, health planning and budget cycles. Taking these fundamental components into consideration will equip innovators to align and manage expectations from stakeholders and investors, which also determines the viability of the innovation for commercialization, diffusion and mobilization.
The strategic engagement plan serves as a roadmap for the innovator to involve the public health sector to endorse the innovation and advocate for partnerships to support and foster uptake in the health industry. Support from the public health sector, in collaboration with the private health sector, builds a solid foundation that will attract investors to engage with innovators, which eventually instigates a culture of innovation. Implementation of the strategic engagement plan requires innovators to have an in-depth understanding of public health sector structure, priority areas, policies, health planning and budget cycles. Taking these fundamental components into consideration will equip innovators to align and manage expectations from stakeholders and investors, which also determines the viability of the innovation for commercialization, diffusion and mobilization.

AHB provides health innovators business advisory and coaching sessions to better understand their key challenges.
We provide research and advisory services that and in work in partnership with innovators, the private sector and the
public sector to create workable and sustainable solutions and formulated workplans with impact and scalability. We
also facilitate the development of new healthcare solutions by providing innovators public sector scaling support. As
an example, we have provided public sector scaling support to maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH)
innovators.