Self-dependance in technology innovation during COVID-19 times

A Model for Priority Setting in Health Technology Innovation Policy

The governance of medical technology has over the last decades focused on the appraisal of the cost-effectiveness of health technologies to the market, thus making such policies reactive and supply-driven. The policy-makers’ role has become one of appraising technologies that are already developed rather than guiding the development agenda. This severely limits the possibility to ensure that health technologies sufficiently address major issues such as the burden of disease, trade deficit, and health inequalities. It places governments outside of the actor arena that co-shapes technologies in the early stages, restricting the involvement in facilitating whether to scale up or not. It makes it hard to achieve health technology governance practices that maximally contribute to ensuring technological developments that address public concerns. This is a tremendous problem in low-and middle-income countries, as supply-driven policies tend to increase dependence and inequality in access to health. But high-income countries have gained a renewed appreciation for the need to steer technology development during the COVID-19 outbreak, as even countries like the Netherlands are by now dependent on foreign goodwill to acquire (Phillips produced!) respirators.

What is the potential of a framework for changing this dynamic and how can evidence shape technology development agendas without falling into the traps of regulator lock-in or social engineering? The methodology presented in this study that was done by Athena researchers in international collaboration, takes the first important steps toward an evidence-based framework for priority setting to guide innovations, particularly in the health and social sectors.

In spite of its very recent publication date, the model has already sparked major international policy change: the Government of India founded a committee “To draft and finalize Policy on R&D and Innovation including Academia-industry linkage in Pharmaceuticals & Medical Devices”. Will the Global North follow by taking a more active role in co-shaping medical technology through innovative policy arrangements? Read the paper here.