Innovation Action Insights

Many of the innovations which shape our lives and the world we live in are developed by designers and engineers working behind closed doors. But what happens when researchers and innovators work together to develop open-source solutions to address some of the greatest challenges of our time? Hosted and produced by Dr Giulia Barbareschi and with a technical commentary by Dr Ben Oldfrey, Innovation Action Insights features interviews and stories from the brains behind the disruptive and cutting-edge innovations aiming to impact the lives of millions of people living in different areas of the world.

Funded by UK Aid COVIDAction and AT2030 through the Innovation Action collaborative initiative led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub. The podcast is supported by UCL Engineering, GDI Hub, UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, Institute of Making, Frontier Technologies Hub, University of Nairobi and the ALL Institute.

The podcast is hosted on SoundCloud and it is also available on Spotify - both are free. Innovation Action Insights will be a 5 part series, with episodes released every two weeks. 

Episode 1

The word manufacturing is often associated with an image of multinational corporations shipping large amounts of materials across continents to big factories. In these factories specialised heavy machines are operated by trained workers to produce small parts that are then assembled into finished products. Products are then packaged and shipped back to stores where consumers can get access to them. While many of the products that we use in our everyday lives are still made in this way, innovators around the world have developed new and alternative models of manufacturing. In this episode we’ll look at some examples of how entrepreneurs in Nepal and Uganda have been able to harness the power of digital technologies and human creativity to create fair and resilient manufacturing systems that bring value to their communities.

Find out more about Wazi Vision and Zener Technologies.

Episode 2

Since the 30th of January 2020, when the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, life has radically changed for billions of people across the globe. In the last year, many of us had been trying to navigate basic and advance concepts of epidemiology, microbiology, economics, data science and public health comparing health resources and policy implementations of different countries, following the development of vaccines and drugs to combat the spread and impact of the virus. The impact that science and technology on our lives and the importance of rapid and responsive innovation has never been more evident. Overnight, the pandemic had made the world both larger and smaller by highlighting how countries need to be able to work together despite their differences. In this episode, we’ll hear stories from two different innovators who, in the last year, have worked on two of the biggest healthcare challenges that have emerged in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic: the development of breathing aids for patients affected by respiratory difficulties and the use of data for policy development.

Find out more about the CovidAction Data Challenge, their grantees Surgo Ventures and  DHIS2.

Read the whole story of the UCL Ventura and stay up to date on more news from the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering.

Innovation Action Insights · Innovation Action Insights - Episode 2 - COVID19 Innovations

Episode 3

In 2019 the 16-years old Greta Thunberg stepped on the podium of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and invited us to stop hoping and start panicking. Her powerful speech reminded us that the climate emergency affecting our planet is a crisis concerning us all and that tacking it requires transformational global actions. In the last few years, discourse around the need for more innovations aimed at lowering our carbon footprint, reduce waste and harnessing clean energy sources had finally started to gain more traction as people realise the importance of environmental sustainability. However, much of this discourse if focused on high income countries with little attention being paid to both the challenges affecting much of the Global south and the creative solutions that have been developed by many innovators.

In this episode we’ll hear the amazing stories of two different ventures in Nigeria and Kenya which hold innovation and sustainability at their core and we’ll learn about how they have been leveraging technology, partnerships and creativity to bring value to the environment and their communities.

Find out more about GIVO and Silafrica

You can also check out the video showcasing the amazing PPE project supported by the Local Production Local Solutions Network.

Innovation Action Insights · Innovation Action Insights - Episode 3 - Sustainability
 

Episode 4

People with disabilities represent the world’s largest minority. According to global estimates from the World Health Organization and the World Bank there are over 1 billion people with disability in the world, nearly 1 in 7. As the global population ages, this number grows, and the expectation is that it will double by 2050. Assistive technologies are a powerful tool that people with disabilities leverage to extend their capabilities, complete everyday tasks, access better opportunities in their communities, and ultimately live life on their own terms. Unfortunately, the majority of people who need assistive technologies do not get access to them. In the Global South, it is estimated that over 80% of people with disabilities are unable to get the assistive technologies they need because these devices are too costly, unavailable in their communities, unsuitable to their context or sometimes, because they have yet to be invented. 

In this episode, we’ll hear how a Kenyan start-up has been developing new devices that support independent mobility for blind users and how a group of researchers is using data analysis methods normally applied to social media to create more resilient assistive technology delivery systems in Kenya and Malawi.

Find out more about Hope Tech Plus & the Kenyan Assistive Technology Ecosystem Strengthening project.

You can also read the full paper on the Network Analysis of Assistive Technology Stakeholders in Malawi.

Innovation Action Insights · Innovation Action Insights - Episode 4 - Assistive Technology
 

Episode 5

Understanding the properties of both new and existing material is becoming more and more a key element in addressing many of the global challenges facing the world. From promoting advances in manufacturing methods to increase the availability of products, to finding and harnessing new sources of energy to combat climate change, many of the areas of research for scientists and engineers around the world revolve around the importance of understanding the possibilities of different materials. Scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa have been working tirelessly to understand how to best leverage the materials available in their own ecosystems to tackle some of the major challenges affecting their community from water shortages, access to electricity and availability of locally made good quality clothing. 

In this episode, we’ll hear stories from two guests telling us how they have been able to creatively leverage the properties of naturally available materials to address challenges related to maternal healthcare and sanitation in Zambia and Kenya.

Find out more about the Safe Mothehood Alliance & CIST Africa.

Innovation Action Insights · Innovation Action Insights Episode 5 - Materials

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