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New drugs and health technologies for low income populations: Bottom of the Pyramid or Below the Radar social technologies?

Chataway, J   Kale, D

December 2009

Introduction

New technologies and products are not the only solution to addressing the critical health needs of many developing countries but they are a component of any reasonable strategy. Technologies and innovations can be social (i.e. related to process and organisation) or physical. This paper asks where new technologies are most likely to come from. Will, as C.K. Prahalad (2005) suggests in his book The Bottom of the Pyramid, large western MNCs awaken to the possibilities of low income markets and begin to put their considerable R&D resources in their direction? Or is it more likely that solutions might emerge as a result of R&D investments of companies in emerging economies such as India, China, South Africa and Brazil. Or are the likely originators of new technologies the complex emergent networks forming around the current generation of public private partnerships (PPPs) and product development partnerships (PDPs). This paper explores new ‘social technologies’ associated with developing country firms and not for profit PPPs and asks whether they are more likely to generate and deliver new ‘physical technologies’ and innovation processes needed by low income users. Below the Radar Innovation (BRI) is a term used to describe this innovation which may not be in the sites or capacities of most large Western MNCs when acting alone and which maybe hard to detect with traditional indicators of R&D but which may prove vital to low income users.

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