Why we do what we do
Over the past two decades, economic growth in many developing countries has been spurred by substantial investment in science, technology, and innovation. Investment has enabled these countries to graduate to middle-income status by increasing their competitiveness, growth, and wealth. Despite this progress, inequality and poverty in all its facets have worsened: more people lack basic human needs in health, education, and living standards.
The field of innovation studies has proven useful in understanding how advanced countries have become competitive. In these countries, innovation depends on dynamic interactions among universities, firms, and government. But in much of the developing world, innovation occurs outside of R&D processes. Key actors and learning processes can differ significantly from those in developed countries, so standard research methods and metrics are insufficient.
Re-conceptualizing innovation studies to systemically investigate the informal sector is critical because millions of low-income people depend on it for livelihoods. For example, informal economic activities contribute about 40% of Africa’s GDP.
Strengthening links and learning between the informal and formal sectors could transform marginal innovative activities into more sustainable ones, with wider impacts, that could boost productivity and improve people’s lives.
The Innovation for Inclusive Development program aims to better understand how innovation in the informal sector can improve livelihoods and contribute to inclusive development.
We focus on the role of women in areas essential to livelihoods, such as natural resources, cultural industries, and services. We also look at intermediaries that bridge informal and formal sectors. For instance, in the Philippines, the Jeepney cooperative of taxi drivers intermediated between a research centre, the local government, and a fast food chain to enable drivers to save money by using waste cooking oil converted into biodiesel.
IID’s intended outcomes include
- universities in developing countries conduct research on innovation for inclusive development
- science granting councils in developing countries fund research in this area
- governments and international organizations develop policies that support innovation in the informal sector