Building health innovation partnerships

Copyright: COHRED

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  • South African experience shows how partnerships can tap local capabilities
  • Different sectors can jointly fund and develop research knowhow, functions
  • In the Philippines, collaboration on healthcare systems should be a priority

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[MANILA] “A partnership can only work if there is a shared vision.”

This was the general consensus at a session of the Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health 2015 held in Manila (24-27 August). Speakers highlighted the importance of building strategic health innovation partnerships and sustaining these to address both challenges and opportunities in developing countries.

“Basically, we started with very little. But through partnerships with local [groups], we were able to expand with our own capabilities,” said Mmboneni Muofhe, deputy director general of technology innovation at the Department of Science and Technology in South Africa, explaining how the country’s health services managed to develop in a very short period.

“A partnership can only work if there is a shared vision.”

– Global Forum on Research and Innovation for Health 2015

Muofhe enumerated the functions of strategic health innovation partnerships in South Africa to include: (1) seeking, managing and funding multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional product research, development and innovation projects from prototype to proof of concept; (2) developing local and international partnerships to increase the likelihood of success and reduce marketing costs; (3) developing pathways to facilitate movement of new products and services from the laboratory to the marketplace; (4) facilitating the transfer of research outputs into improved health outcomes and/or social benefits; and (5) enhancing the capacity of science to improve the health of the nation.

“One of the challenges we have in developing countries is we do not have enough capacity, facilities and infrastructure. But by bringing all the countries together, we [can] create a bridgehead,” he added.

Samuel Bernal, a professor emeritus of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, noted that the Philippines is one of the developing countries that should prioritise healthcare systems. But with the increasing number of Filipinos working all over the world, he said that among the major challenges in health are the access to and mobility of healthcare coverage.

“The mobility of services has a great impact on health because if you are a construction worker from the Philippines going to Malaysia, how are you going to get health coverage?” Bernal tells SciDev.Net.

“This is something that the Philippine government has to take into account but the private sector also needs to step in. There has to be a partnership not only between the government and the private sector, but also between governments,” Bernal says.

“All of these trends are also related to opportunities that could be opened up in terms of financing and encouraging investments, for example, from Japan, South Korea and the United States. This is already happening because many of the Japanese and South Korean investors are building facilities in collaboration with Philippine institutions,” he adds.

“ASEAN itself opens up to tremendous opportunities for partnerships, so we are no longer talking about national governments, but rather about supranational organisations,” Bernal notes.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.