Creating innovation capabilities for improving global health: Inventing technology for neglected tropical diseases in Brazil
Previous research on innovation capabilities in emerging economies shows knowledge networks tied to Western multinationals and national governments focused on economic growth. Less understood is the innovation capability building of emerging economies to achieve ‘good health’, an important Sustainable Development Goal. Here, we present a longitudinal study of a public research organization in an emerging economy and examine how it builds innovation capabilities for creating vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics for diseases primarily affecting the poor. We study FIOCRUZ in Brazil using archival, patent, and interview data about invention of technologies for neglected tropical diseases. We contribute novel insights into the evolution of knowledge networks, as national policy integrates innovation and health goals. We found significant diversification of local and foreign knowledge sources, and substantial creation of networks with public, private, and non-governmental organizations enabling collective invention. These R&D networks attract many multinationals to collaborate on socially driven innovation projects previously non-existent in their portfolios. The public research organization leads collaborations with multinationals and diverse partners, harnessing distributed international knowledge. Our results indicate emerging economies’ capabilities depend on elevating policies to increase health access for the poor to drive innovation and promoting local R&D to generate solutions to improve health.