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Vaccine shots and silver bullets

9 February 2022

Presenter: Charlie Whetham, PhD Student in Development Policy and Practice at The Open University

Discussant: Theo Papaioannou, Professor of Politics, Innovation and Development at The Open University

Chair: Lorena Lombardozzi, Senior Lecturer in Economics at The Open University

This talk was held on Wednesday 9 February 2022.

This talk draws from the presenter’s current, topical, PhD thesis examining the role of donors in fostering innovation in international development, through the case-study of global immunisation. Attracted by a return on investment of up to 44 times (Ozawa etal, 2016), global immunisation is heavily supported by donors, channelling funding through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, of over US$ 2 billion per year. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the stakes, and the profile of the sector, significantly further. This research uses the system of innovation concept – specifically the global innovation system model of Binz and Truffer (2017) – to examine the roles of UNICEF, Gavi, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the primary donors within the sector. It finds the existence of common and bounded institutions, actors and activities across two distinct but highly inter-connected sub-systems at the global and national levels. Donors foster innovation primarily through their generation and utilisation of market access, financial subsidy, and legitimacy. Quite how these are used varies by innovation development phase. Donors create these resources primarily through the structural linkages they provide between sub-systems, which they leverage variously in a strategic integrative manner, or for more tactical brokerage (Chataway etal, 2007). Individual donors have differing comparative advantages in this, based on their organisational characteristics, the diversity of which is important for the success of the innovation system.

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