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Dr Rebecca Hanlin

Rebecca Hanlin

Profile summary

Professional biography

After completing a BSc (Hons) in Development Studies and Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Rebecca worked in Tanzania and Nigeria. During this time in Africa she worked both in private industry and as a consultant for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the area of malaria prevention technologies and public-private partnerships. Rebecca also holds an MSc (Econ) in Health Policy, Planning and Financing, a joint award from London School of Economics and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an MSc (Res) in Science and Technology Studies from University of Edinburgh. Rebecca’s PhD investigated health innovation partnerships and their capacity building activities in Kenya. Rebecca joined Development Policy and Practice (DPP) in October 2007. She has been Director of Health Innovation with the Innogen Centre and is currently Innovation and Development Specialist with the AfricaLics network of innovation and development scholars based in Africa.

Research interests

Rebecca’s work is in the area of innovation and development with a specific focus on health and energy innovation and its implications for the provision of inclusive development. Her current research interests include: scientific research capacity strengthening and the application of innovation systems concepts in developing world settings. To see more on these areas of work please visit:

Teaching interests

Rebecca was co-chair of TU871, the postgraduate course ‘Development: Context and Practice’ and member of the module team for U213, the undergraduate course called ‘International Development: Challenges for a World in Transition’. She co-developed the remake of TU871 into T877 making it wholly online. Rebecca also coordinated the development of the first part of the remake of the OU’s undergraduate course, TD223, ‘International Development: Making Sense of a Changing World’..

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Development Policy and Practice Research GroupGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Externally funded projects

The Next Generation of Low-Cost Energy-Efficient Appliances and Devices to Benefit the Bottom of the Pyramid
RoleStart dateEnd dateFunding source
Co-investigator19 Jan 201531 Aug 2016EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in activity to provide energy to low-income households and communities in developing countries, through micro-grids and other methods. Unfortunately, beyond LED lighting and mobile phone charging, there has been limited practical exploration of how access to energy can improve the lives of people in developing countries. While studies have shown some improvement in people's lives as a result of this increase in access to lighting, there have been few studies evidencing broader improvement due to energy access. Indeed, adoption of renewable energy has been very low in these countries. This low adoption is especially surprising in light of several studies, which have found that energy can represent one of the largest markets within the Bottom of the Pyramid (the poorest households in our global society). Even as organizations working on the energy access issue wrestle with struggling business models for clean energy distribution, we believe a critical portion of the solution lies elsewhere; and it is receiving scant attention. We believe the primary reason for the low adoption of renewable energy is that there are very few low-energy low-cost products available to-or made for-the poor in developing countries. Energy itself doesn't change people's lives; rather, it is what people use the energy for that does change lives: household appliances, workplace machines, clinical/medical devices, etc. Unfortunately, there is very limited understanding of the many market segments represented by the global poor, and of what types of powered appliances and products might change the quality of their lives (and, ideally, their economic condition). For example Currently, more than two-thirds of births in developing countries occur at home, because poor off-grid communities cannot afford to build clinics with expensive medical devices which also require electricity. New low-cost, low-energy medical devices (e.g., solar-powered infant incubators) would make it possible to build clinics at a dramatically lower cost (as low as 10% of current costs). This would allow women to give birth at clinics instead of homes, and the medical devices in these clinics would lead to faster and more effective intervention during birth emergencies. Since these devices could be solar-powered, they would also significantly reduce the need for nonrenewable energy. The low power incubator is something some early research suggests may be appropriate, but this project as a whole is about setting up research to really understand the detailed needs of the BoP market, and then responding to them with innovative design on an ongoing basis. We strongly believe that demand for renewable energy-and the impact of clean energy access-will significantly increase if a new generation of demand-driven, affordable, low-power products were available. A core component of our project is the creation of Innovation Hubs in countries like Kenya and India. Working with key private and public sector partners, these hubs are intended to be centers-of-excellence which can: (a) conduct ongoing market research on BoP segments, demands and needs (b) produce low-cost, energy-efficient appliances (in collaboration with supply chain partners) (c) lend technical expertise to public, private and academic institutions interested in BoP market insights. Private-sector companies do not traditionally invest in the R&D required to build such products for the BoP, because those markets are highly unpredictable, and because profit margins can be low. As a result, virtually all private sector investments in developing countries are targeting the emerging middle class, rather than the poor. We believe that the market insights we will generate from this project will give private sector companies market intelligence that currently does not exist.