ICFI congratulates Dr Sanghamitra Chakravarty on successfully defending her thesis titled: “A development lens to resource-constrained innovation: Exploring frugality in medical device manufacturing in South Africa.”
In her dissertation, Sanghamitra explores innovation driven small and medium sized manufacturing firms in developing countries which are critical entities in the process of inclusion and technological change. Using empirical evidence from medical device firms in South Africa, the thesis examines the orientation of these firms, the directionality of innovation towards inclusion and the conditions shaping this directionality in the medical devices sector. The choice of this sector was motivated by the lack of affordable and appropriate medical devices to meet the needs of low-and middle-income countries which has emerged as a global health concern. She argues that there is a need to understand alternate innovation sources embedded in and appreciative of resource-constrained settings.
“Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, better public health and more equitable access have become living room and social media conversations. There is a renewed realisation for greater regional reliance in critical sectors such as health. Within this context, there is a need to understand alternate innovation sources embedded in and appreciative of resource-constrained settings.” (Page 2)
Moving away from a business and management focus, this thesis advances a “development lens” to resource-constrained innovation, taking into consideration both innovation for and under constraints. Sanghamitra argues that both are needed to enable inclusive technological change. Systematic analysis of six medical devices was conducted by adapting a global health framework with the parameters of appropriateness, affordability, availability, and accessibility. This revealed that while some innovations specifically address health challenges of low resource, others are more affordable technological innovations with universal relevance and some frugal elements.
The research finds the role of the state and global non-profits in harnessing frugal innovations for public health to be critical. Even though frugal medical devices are relatively cheaper than their mainstream counterpart, Chakravarty argues that their accessibility to those who need them most depends on whether they can be diffused through public health systems. Therefore, she states that solely a market-based and depoliticed approach to frugal innovation may not enable inclusion.
“Frugal medical devices are often designed to solve problems in the developing world where a large percentage of the population is dependent on public health. The target market for medical devices is therefore not only the individual and privately insured customer, but also governments, NGOs and international donors.” (Page 83).
Sanghamitra’s research has been published in the journal Technovation and in a book chapter co-authored with Prof. Peter Knorringa.
We thank the full doctoral committee for reviewing Sanghamitra’s thesis and the engaging discussion during the defence.
Sanghamitra has an interdisciplinary background with earlier degrees in chemical engineering and extensive work experience in government innovation and development programmes in India and Oman. She is currently doing postdoctoral research at TUDelft. We wish her an incredibly interesting and fruitful time as she continues her career at TU Delft.
Did the article spark your interest? Do take a look here at the thesis to learn more about the intersection of frugal innovation, development, resource constrained environments, inclusion and technological change! Or write to her at S.Chakravarty@tudelft.nl