Globalisation has created a number of public health challenges, but also some unexpected positives. Catherine Rushworth explores a concept challenging the dominant mindset that the technologically advanced North is the natural exporter of intelligent ideas to the South, their grateful receiver.
Healthcare innovation is typically thought of as a ‘north to south’ phenomenon. Scientific breakthroughs – both historic, such as the germ theory, or modern day genetic revolutions – have typically occurred in the Northern hemisphere. Similarly, the majority of drugs, diagnostics and the latest medical equipment are mostly all ‘innovated’ in the north and ‘exported’ to the global south. In the global health community the idea of reverse innovation has been gathering pace. It flips this concept – and our mindset – upside down and asks the question, what can we learn from the South?
Reverse innovation, or trickle-up innovation as it is also known, is a term referring to any innovation originating in the ‘developing’ world that then spreads to the ‘developed’ world. The concept originated from the for-profit sector in 2005, and by 2012 a reviewer of Chris Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan’s book, Reverse Innovation, dubbed it as ‘the new business idea everyone is talking about’. It has also been widely cited in the context of global health systems. Notably, Lord Nigel Crisp championed it in his book, Turning the world upside down, which he wrote after retiring from leading the largest healthcare organisation and the fifth biggest employer in the world, the NHS. Continue reading