Scaling up priority health innovations: opportunities for impact

Stakeholder Insights

  • Mapped the World Health Organization’s (WHO) key programmatic areas to identify needs for innovations that improve health and wellbeing
  • Mapped the WHO’s existing product, technology and service innovations, across the innovation cycle
  • Mapped the WHO’s internal organizational capabilities to innovate and partner to bring quality and affordable innovations to people
  • Conducted internal interviews with 40+ individuals across all divisions at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, as well as with the WHO’s key external partners
  • Assessed the WHO’s human and financial resources in this area


We were commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) leadership to help the organization transform its innovation capabilities and partnerships that foster product and service innovations for the delivery of better health through the life-course in countries around the world.

For the purpose of this project we defined “innovation” as existing and new products, technologies and services that can make significant contribution to prevention, care and treatment of target populations in low and middle-income countries, through improved affordability, access, and/or effectiveness. We reviewed the WHO’s innovation capabilities across the entire innovation life cycle (ideation, research & development, partnerships, validation, synthesis, optimization, scale up), and across all five programmatic areas (infectious diseases; non-communicable diseases; promoting health through the life-cycle; preparedness, surveillance and response; and health systems and innovations). The WHO’s prioritization of innovation substantially varied and was highly dependent on funding and less so on needs. We therefore used our recommended criteria for the assessment of needs, including the burden of disease, unmet need, affordability, accessibility, efficacy/effectiveness, quality, estimated time to market, viable investment case and the need to consider ecosystems and time to market.

Methodology was based on a consultation process, interviews, brainstorming meetings with the WHO staff, and extensive review of provided research materials, ours and partners’ insights. This included key framework documents and initiative on innovation such as the WHO Program of Work, Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation, Report of the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public health, PATH Innovation Countdown 2030 Initiative, Resolution 68/98, Global Health and Foreign Policy, and others.

Information gathered through the Smart Map process is proprietary and was used for the development of recommendations to the WHO leadership. Further information, including identified priority innovations and opportunities for collaboration can be shared upon request.