SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

How to link industrial and social innovation for inclusive development: lessons from tackling cancer


In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), Cancer is an ever-growing health crisis, due to a sharply rising disease burden, poor diagnosis and a lack of access to the necessary expensive medication and equipment to treat the diseases. This means that many sufferers never receive treatment.

However, innovative technologies and generic medicines offer the potential for lower cost care. Many of these are being developed in India, a country with a strong pharmaceutical industry and a track record of producing low-cost products for the health sector. Similarly, a number of African countries have a pharmaceutical industry that is actively upgrading to more complex technologies. In some regions of Africa, there is a growing trend for India-Africa collaboration in the health sector. For example, in East Africa, much of its industrial production and innovation is strongly networked with Indian industrial partners and suppliers. In this research we focus on Kenya and Tanzania, two East African countries.

A new interdisciplinary project, funded by the ESRC and launched in September 2018, aims to demonstrate the benefits for inclusive development of linking local industrial and social innovation in SSA by addressing the issue of increasing access to cancer care. Inclusive economic development (that brings with it inclusive universally accessible healthcare) requires appropriate and sustainable links between industrial and social policies. These have to be actively built at a local level and require collaborative working and decision making within the different domains of industrial, trade and social policies.

The project is led by Maureen Mackintosh at The Open University. Dr Chux Daniels (SPRU) is the principal investigator for the University of Sussex.

The project objectives are:

  • To create and evaluate scenarios that link specific local industrial and health sector innovations, in order to illuminate constraints and opportunities for generating more accessible cancer care in SSA;
  • To base these scenarios in initial identification of emerging options for lower cost prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of a range of cancers, and an assessment of the scope for further innovation, for Africa-India collaboration, and for Africa-based industrial production of relevant technologies;
  • To address the scenarios to some of the most severe needs for cancer, diagnosis and treatment, and to local priorities, constraints and capacities for expanding access to these;
  • To draw conclusions for business strategies, and for linking health and industrial policies, in order to increase the social inclusiveness of economic development.


The project is split into three parts. The first two will focus on collecting data. The third will use the data to develop and evaluate scenarios in order to address the project objectives.

The first part of the project will explore ‘industrial capabilities, business models and emerging technologies for low-resource cancer care. Secondary data and a series of semi-structured interviews will be collected in Tanzania, Kenya, India and in the UK. Data will be collected from firms, medical and pharmaceutical manufacturers, and distributors involved in relevant areas such as technology development and technology transfer; industry associations; senior Ministry officials and policymakers; public agencies and international funders.

The next stage will focus on barriers and facilitators for low cost cancer diagnosis and treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa and India. Again, relevant secondary data sources will be collated, such as documentary evidence on policies, existing interventions, and research findings on cancer care. Limited fieldwork (including interviews and surveys) will also be carried out in Tanzania and Kenya to fill specific gaps in understanding of barriers and facilitators for cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management.

Finally, the researchers will generate and evaluate proposals for specific local industrial and health sector innovations to widen access to cancer care.

Impact and outreach

This project aims to influence national and international policy thinking, policy formulation and implementation, and business strategies, in order to improve access to low-cost cancer care through industrial-health linkages and collaborations. Some of the main stakeholders include policymakers in health, industry and technological change and industrialists in relevant industries. However; the largest benefit would be to national and pan-African stakeholders formulating and implementing policies for pharmaceutical industry development for health sector benefit in the context of moves towards universal health coverage.

Further information

The project includes the University of Sussex working in collaboration with The Open University, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF) in Tanzania, University College London (UCL), the University of Edinburgh, and Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER)

Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute