Design for disruptive innovation

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Environmental scientist Donella Meadows suggested that every system had three components: elements interconnections, and a function or purpose. Innovation works to redraw these connections or to rethink the boundaries of such a system. Disruptive innovation refers to a new technology that supercedes an older, established product in the market--from mainframe to personal computer; gas-powered to electric vehicle; and Kodak camera to digital. In so doing, the innovation may be transformative along some dimension. It may outcompete what it succeeds on the basis of greater simplicity, affordability or accessibility.

The work of the IDEA (Innovation+Design Enabling Access) Initiative, the Hopkins Alliance for a Healthier World’s thematic arm of Transformative Technologies and Institutions, and ReAct-Action on Antibiotic Resistance’s Strategic Policy Program all share a common approach--designing for disruptive innovation. Along these lines, the Program has particularly focused on creating an enabling environment for bringing low-cost technologies to resource-limited settings. Training policymakers and public health professionals, the Program organizes each year the Summer Institute short course on “Designing Transformative Innovation for Global Health.”