In the midst of the Covid-19 global crisis it has become obvious that research and innovation has to be put at the service of solving grand challenges like this one.
Research and innovation is not only for the sake of advancing the frontiers of human knowledge, nor only for the sake of improving companies’ competitiveness in world markets.
It is about bringing solutions to acute needs.
For this reason, “transformative research and innovation” is a normative notion signaling the importance of that ultimate goal of scientific and innovative activities.
Two further ideas:
First, if we are to embrace the notion of transformative innovation, then it is important we understand that research and innovation are activities embedded in a system-wide approach to transformation. It means that, it is not just about finding a vaccine for Covid-19 as quick as possible. It is about improving the flow from the production of knowledge (research and innovation on the vaccine) to quicker and more effective health systems’ response to pandemics.
Second, if we are to embrace the notion of transformative innovation, then we also need to align better national and global responses. In order to do that we need to build up strong organisational capacities at domestic and global levels so research and innovation efforts are quickly coordinated at different levels, and are able to make true transformations at world scale.
I dealt with these two issues in my new chapter on Domestic Capacity to Deliver Innovative Solutions for Grand Social Challenges. I examine the example of global Product Development Partnerships (PDPs), which have been created in order to find vaccines and treatments for neglected diseases like HIV, malaria, or tuberculosis. Similar techniques are being used today in the race to find a vaccine for Covid-19.