Innogen annual meeting 2023

22 June 2023

Innogen researchers and PhD students at The Open University and The University of Edinburgh gathered at The Open University Campus in Milton Keynes on the 1st-2nd June to present their latest research and discuss future plans.

Participants were welcomed by Innogen’s Director, Professor Theo Papaioannou who introduced the first talk by Visiting Professor Chris Warkup on business−university interactions. With the UK’s innovation index dropping to 18th in the world (Bloomberg index 2021), he’s been looking at ways to encourage and support university spin-outs. Interestingly, despite creating the more spin-outs than any other university in the UK, The University of Oxford lags behind Cambridge in creating big companies from them. This is partly due to its spin-out policies that take too much equity from researchers who launch companies. Chris argues that to get the most value out of research, universities should focus on getting IP used rather than on its ownership.

Dave Wield presented some of his work on emergency-driven capacity building in the UK in response to COVID-19. The UK’s efforts at building laboratory testing capabilities and producing PPE demonstrate how industrial innovation systems can effectively respond and adapt in times of crises. He plans to examine the influence of this rapid change in industrial policy on the UK’s post-pandemic industrial strategy and future emergency response.

Geoff Banda has been examining the opportunities and challenges of developing medical manufacturing capabilities in Southern African countries with SADC (Southern Africa Development Community), in particular at ways to make active pharmaceutical ingredients and deepen regional anti-retroviral medicine value chains. He also continues to work with TIBA to help strengthen health systems and policies aimed at reducing the burden of infectious diseases and neglected tropical diseases in Africa.

Joyce Tait spoke about her work with the Regulatory Horizon’s Council which is advising the government on regulatory reform needed to support the introduction of emerging innovations involving AI and quantum technologies. She also recently contributed to assess the regulatory landscape for the life sciences sector in the ‘Pro-Innovation Regulation of Technologies Review’, which was presented by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to HM Government.

The first day of the retreat ended with a presentation from an Innogen PhD alumni, Matt Harsch, who is now Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Expressive Technologies at Cal Poly, California. He gave an overview of his research on the structure and governance of innovation in Africa, focusing on equity and inclusivity; educating future-ready leaders; and visual sociology. As Assistant Director of the Ethnografilm Festival held annually in Paris, he is always looking for new ways to integrate visual methods and storytelling into social science.  

On day 2, Julius Mugwagwa, Associate Professor in Innovation & Development at the UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP), presented his research on science systems, health innovation and development in Africa. He is interested in examining how policy interventions at different levels, from global to local, can tackle health disparities and in understanding the barriers and enablers of innovation.

Dinar Kale is continuing his work on industrial dynamics and health industry production capabilities in low and middle income countries. He also outlined his plans to research patterns of inter- and intra-continental migration in Africa and how they are contributing to sustainable and inclusive growth.

Adam Linson, Assistant Professor in Computing and Communications at the OU in Scotland, presented his work on a non-invasive neurotechnology device that could be used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorders.

Theo Papaioannou provided an update on his research on the role of the state in innovation and the politics of health innovation. He has recently submitted two research proposals to further investigate the role of the Social Solidarity Economy in grassroots innovation.

In the afternoon, Pallavi Joshi who is finishing her PhD in Department of Policy and Practice at The Open University, presented her work on the actors and factors influencing the development, diffusion and adoption of inclusive MedTech innovations for early cancer detection in India.

Paradzayi Jawona, a PhD student at The University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Sciences, presented his research on how informal fabricators are driving innovation in assistive rehabilitation technologies (ARTs) in Zimbabwe. Understanding how these innovators are providing products that meet patients’ needs has important implications for healthcare, education and business regulation and policy in low and middle income countries.

At the end of the meeting, participants discussed future collaboration and bidding plans.

 “Our annual meeting is a great opportunity to catch up with the cutting edge research Innogen colleagues are doing; a lot exciting projects are delivering both excellent outputs and impact,” said Theo Papaioannou, Director of Innogen & Professor of Politics, Innovation and Development at The Open University.

It was refreshing to meet in person with colleagues, reflect on our successes and think about future collaborative work, said Geoff Banda, Deputy Director of Innogen & Senior Lecturer at The University of Edinburgh.