5 Affordable Medical Technology Innovation Programs Aimed At Emerging Markets You Need To Know Right Now

Accessible, affordable and quality medical technologies are still not widely available in emerging economies where traditionally it has been so that medical technology products have always been imported from developed countries. But the way most companies from developed countries treat emerging markets has been very paternalistic. They are usually making a certain type of product(s) for both domestic and all international markets.

Most businesses from developed markets persisted in believing that “Finnish (swap with another developed country) design and engineering” was in itself enough to get the ball rolling and get branded as a great product. And almost in every case, these solutions are expensive because they are built by the best with the best of everything. Also, if one is designing, engineering and working on products largely sold in developed countries, then those solutions might not work in places with very different needs and infrastructure levels. There is obviously a market for some of these expensive solutions where there are no replaceable alternatives but especially in the healthcare and medical technology sector, startups and local businesses in emerging markets are beginning to challenge the status quo.

But now there are also efforts from innovation agencies, investors, entrepreneurs and premier universities from some of the leading developed countries to start co-creating such quality, accessible and affordable solutions.

I want to highlight 5 such programs that are helping make a difference and showing the way for others to follow in creating these frugal innovations.

Stanford-India Biodesign Program

Stanford India Biodesign

The Stanford India Biodesign program was launched to identify the need for affordable medical solutions in 2007. The concept was so that “the fellows” will spend months immersed in the interdisciplinary environment of Stanford Bio-X, learning the Biodesign process of researching clinical needs and prototyping a medical devices. Past fellows from the program have successfully launched 36 companies focused on developing devices for unmet medical needs. This program co-operation with India was ended in 2015 and in it’s place the International School For Biodesign was launched in New Delhi.

School of International Biodesign, All India Institute of Medical Sciences

School of International Biodesign

Started in 2015, the aim of School of International Biodesign is to train the next generation of medical technology innovators and create an ecosystem of frugal medical innovations. Outside of India, they are currently partnering with Stanford University, Cambridge University, Queensland University of Technology, Tottori University and Japan Federation of Medical Devices Associations to help them get to their goal. They do this via fellowships to co-create frugal medical technologies.

Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech), Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Global Health

CAMTech’s goal is to accelerate affordable medical technology innovation to improve health outcomes in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). They have been using hackathons as a way to generate ideas and solutions. In 2016 they launched the CAMTech Online Innovation Platform to address a critical gap in the medtech ecosystem by providing expertise, resources and targeted support to global health innovators. The online platform gives members access to Experts, Investors, Clinical Opportunities, Partners, Resources and Innovators. CAMTech has focussed activities so far in India and Uganda.

TechEmerge

Techemerge

TechEmerge bills itself as a first of its kind matchmaking program for proven technology companies around the world that are looking to grow their business in emerging markets. The inaugural program in 2015-2016 connected innovators globally to healthcare providers in India to accomplish the dual goals of improving healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. The program is operated by IFC (a member of the World Bank Group) with funding also coming from the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy (MEE) and the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry. TechEmerge is run in partnership with Health 2.0

Pears Program for Global Innovation’s Med4Dev Hackathon

Med4Dev

The India-Israel Med4Dev Hackathon is putting together innovators, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, designers, engineers, programmers and business professionals over a three day period in up to four locations (Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai) in order to develop innovative ideas and prototype solutions (hardware and software) to address healthcare challenges of low and lower-middle income communities in India. The program will be having it’s main activities in July 2016.

As you can see most of the affordable medical technology innovations are being piloted in India with CAMTech also focusing on Uganda. The reason I believe is:

  • There is a lot of enthusiasm at the government level
  • There seems to be good professional and personal connections between individuals and organisations that are organising these programs
  • Last but not least, India is big and diverse enough with skilled engineeers/doctors/innovators as well as huge number of people with un-met medical needs to have it as a lead market to test these affordable medical solutions.
  • Want To Know The Secret On How Startups and Mobile Operators Work Together in Emerging Markets?

    Check the infographic and also the web link to see a detailed report on how useful APIs are between mobile operators and start-ups in emerging markets.

    API Mobiles Infographic

    According to the article on GSMA website, there are around 15,000 APIs, with 40 new ones created every week. Salesforce already generates 50 per cent of its revenues via APIs, eBay generates 60 per cent, and Expedia 90 per cent. Welcome to the new API economy.

    An API, or Application Programming Interface, is what allows software programs to “talk” to one another and reach a broader audience. APIs are what allow you to share a news article on LinkedIn or send your location on WhatsApp using your smartphone. APIs are also what allow a farmer in Senegal to check crop prices via SMS (MLouma) or a student in the Philippines to pay for their bus ride using their mobile airtime credit (Bustayo) . Services like these are powered by the APIs of local mobile operators.

    If you want to directly read the report, it is in pdf format here.

    Impact Investing Is A Good Way To Go For Frugal Innovators As Well

    Over the past 3 years, I have been developing ideas on all the different ways that Entrepreneurs and Startups who are creating frugal solutions can access capital.

    Mind you if you are a big company that is publicly listed or even privately owned, then they can go for their own cash reserves or set aside budgets to deal with these as new R&D&I projects.

    But for startups, they can either access traditional innovation funds in the public sector, or raise funds via crowdsourcing, or get funding via big foundations in your field. Now Impact investing is a growing phenomenon trying to take advantage of all these.

    Came across this nice overview for Impact investing from The Global Impact Investing Network’s What You Need to Know About Impact Investing

    Many types of investors are entering the growing impact investing market. Here are a few common investor motivations:

    • Banks, pension funds, financial advisors, and wealth managers can PROVIDE CLIENT INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES to both individuals and institutions with an interest in general or specific social and/or environmental causes.
    • Institutional and family foundations can LEVERAGE SIGNIFICANTLY GREATER ASSETS to advance their core social and/or environmental goals, while maintaining or growing their overall endowment.
    • Government investors and development finance institutions can PROVIDE PROOF OF FINANCIAL VIABILITY for private-sector investors while targeting specific social and environmental goals.

    Just Came Across Conscious Capitalism – Initial Thoughts

    “It’s not about minimizing costs and making profits. You have to build on growing, caring and making an impact.”- Babson College Professor, Raj Sisodia, co-founder of Conscious Capitalism Inc.

    This above quote is from this article Conscious Capitalism: the Next Chapter in Business. 

    This is part of the increasingly mainstreamed way of doing business. First came Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), then Inclusive Business, Social Entrepreneurship, Impact Investing and Frugal Innovation have started to push business from “Laissez Faire Capitalism” to responsible capitalism.

    This in combination with economists like Tomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” and Professor Angus Deaton (2015 Nobel prize winner in Economics) have started to highlight the necessity in creating a more responsible way of doing business.

    I will have to read more, get more examples, digest them all and will get back to further thoughts on this in future blog posts.

    Discrepancy Regarding Available Jobs (Be It ICT Or Others) And Available Workforce

    Just was going through this EU Thematic Fiche (background document) – DIGITAL SINGLE MARKET: DIGITAL SKILLS AND JOBS

    This report was shared by a colleague on Facebook and I wanted to get my 2 cents out there.

    Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 18.15.40

    Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 18.15.08

    Looking at Figure 1 and Figure 3, Finland has clearly highest per capita in having digital skills and at the same time also the highest share of them in the ICT industry. It is also the highest share in EU! If ICT professionals are also one of the most needed employees in EU but there is still huge unemployment in Finland and taken together with the economical situation of Finland, sadly something is really wrong.

    The articles and reports I read on the discrepancy regarding available jobs (be it ICT or others) and available workforce is that there is no skills match and especially in startups, it seems they would rather have someone with the readily available skills rather than train them on the job.

    Impact Solutions Are Not Necessarily Frugal Solutions But The Opposite Is True

    I am seeing lot of ‪#‎Impact‬ examples where ‪#‎affordability‬ to end user is missing. I made this note for myself:

    “What is ‪#‎Frugal‬ can be ‪#‎Impactful‬ but an #Impact solution isn’t necessarily a #Frugal Solution.”

    My definition of Frugal = Quality, Accessible, Sustainable & Affordable.

    The comment I have heard from a Finnish colleague is “This might not be a top priority for a typical Finnish engineer or technological solution, i.e. being tech-centric as opposed to user-centric. I suppose the point-of-view depends what target market a product or service is being designed for. Personally I understand an impactful product or service to be either affordable for the end user or otherwise accessible (paid for my someone else), because what impact is there if the product or service does not reach its intended users?”

    But isn’t it so that because even if we think of a developed country market..eg: Finland:

  • Average pension is less than 2000 Euros, Pensioners (1.525 million) make up almost 28% of the population;
  • Currently 341000 people are unemployed (The Ministry of Employment and the Economy has forecasted that by 2017 the long-term unemployed will rise to nearly 40 % of all unemployed …A bigger issue is if increasing number of unemployed have stopped looking for work);
  • The recent Employer-employee contracts show that wage growth will be more or less stagnant;
  • Government funding cuts to organisations already shows in lesser resources for education, research, healthcare, social security, pensions etc.. Also means government can’t or wont subsidise much;
  • Also I read that a growing number of Finns financial difficulty is now at record levels. 372,000 people had problems paying the bills in April 2016 (Turun Sanomat May 30, 2016).

    So with these in mind how can we push the conversation in this country that actually “Frugal” solutions are needed here as well, not just in some distant faraway Africa or Asia.

    Scathing Review of Internationalisation Among Finnish Businesses From EU Report

    The most damning thing I was reading today about the state of business affairs in Finland. Bad indicators in Finland on number of businesses started & going international.

    EUFinlandReport2016

    … 3.4 new companies per 1000 persons of the working-age population are created. This proportion is lower than the EU median……. Early-stage entrepreneurs in Finland are less internationally oriented and see their businesses as less innovative than early-stage entrepreneurs in most other EU Member States.

    The info is from this EU Country Report Finland 2016.

    The thing that I was so surprised to see in those two graphs is we are in this situation even though since 2009 there has been huge talk about entrepreneurship from politicians, policy makers etc and there has been big startup/business events like Slush, Nordic Business Forum, Arctic 15 etc.. I assumed there would be some positive affect of them in reality. Apparently not much.

    5 Stages Of Grief – Finnish (European) Economy in 2016 & The Need For Frugal Solutions

    I started out helping Finnish businesses in India 5 years ago. Two years into it, I realized that when customers in developing countries like India are asking for an IKEA type  solution, most Finnish businesses are instead giving them an Artek. At the same time, I noticed that the European economic crisis began to manifest in a way where more Finnish families and businesses are having lesser purchasing power. This made me realize that pretty soon they will need high tech, new tech, low cost, sustainable ( =Frugal) solutions.

    Source: http://www.findikaattori.fi/en/3

    This, I believe, is not just Finnish issue but a Nordic and Europe wide issue leading me to imagine the 5 stages of grief that the Finnish (European) business will go through before they create frugal solutions.

    Stage 1 – Denial

    The businesses attempt to shut themselves from seeing what’s actually happening or create an alternate reality that they would like to have. “Wait long enough” and then things will go back to as they were! They seem to try to convince themselves that the situation is just temporary or that the crisis won’t affect them or their industry. “We shall start seeing our traditional markets grow anytime now and since we make the best possible solution, the buyers in developing countries need to get around to our viewpoint and see the quality and value of our offering and just not haggle about the price!”

    The 2016 Economic Report of the President from the White House with this particular figure illustrates what’s on my mind:

    I also see that most businesses have begun to move to the next 4 stages.

    Stage 2 – Anger

    At this stage, businesses will start to be angry. The economists, politicians, the consumers, the system- all letting them down. Are the Chinese flooding the market and driving down prices? Are we to blame ourselves for not planning properly and not seeing this looming economic crisis?

    Stage 3 – Rationalizing

    Businesses will reach out to banks and other lenders to renegotiate payment terms. Reach out to others in the same tough spot and try to rationalize that this is not something that is uniquely affecting their particular business. Or maybe the next big deal is right around the corner but when the negotiations start to stretch out and combined with stages 1 and 2, it leads to the next stage.

    Stage 4 – Despair

    What if the credit lines don’t get extended. Maybe the big deal they thought was happening  doesn’t happen and they come back asking for a ridiculously lower price or that they don’t want to purchase that item any more or they found another better offer. There will be a lot of uncertainty leading to despair and making businesses question if what they are offering is the right product fit and market fit anymore!

    Stage 5 – Acceptance

    A business person is an entrepreneur at heart. A smart one would quickly go through or even be able to skip some of those grief stages to accept the reality of the situation. This will help them make peace with the situation and begin to develop a strategy to deal with it.

    I would say that businesses will start to integrate a different product line comprising of frugal solutions that will help them stabilize and get them on to the road to profits. They will realize that solutions that are of good quality but at the same time that are also affordable and sustainable will be a real win-win. This will bring into fore a more user focused design process or a change in their business model and value chain. These successful businesses will figure out that Frugal solutions can be produced using high tech/new tech, low cost approach.

     These frugal solutions can be arrived at by using principles and processes of circular economy, shared economy, open innovation, inclusive/social innovation, DIY/Maker movement and co-creation.

    We at The Nordic Frugal Innovation Society (http://tnfis.org) are working with both public and private sector to show that slow growth, deleveraging, environmental constraints, ageing societies in Finland and other developed economies on one hand and emerging world markets on the other will push businesses to create frugal solutions.

     Our 2 day innovation and thought leadership event called InnoFrugal (www.innofrugal.com) is where attendees can listen, learn, interact and network on co-creating affordable & sustainable solutions with new technologies to standout from their competitors in their traditional (developed) markets as well as newer (emerging) markets.

    I welcome you to join us in this co-creation journey at the 2nd edition ofInnoFrugal during April 25-26, 2016 at Heureka-The Finnish Science Centre.