Innovation in Humanitarian settings: why is collaboration crucial yet challenging?

Thursday 5 May 08.00

Room 4

In English


Innovation has the potential to contribute addressing increasingly complex challenges in the humanitarian and global health sector. In the humanitarian system, innovation has been defined as an iterative process of identifying, adjusting and diffusing ideas for improving humanitarian action. While there is a general acceptance of the need to innovate, the core mandate of humanitarian actors to prioritize implementation of assistance and protection to populations takes precedence and opt for incremental changes rather high risk (radical) options. Consequently, successful innovations suffer from delays and struggle to scale.

Harnessing innovations in medical technologies has a significant potential to meet global health challenges as well. Oftentimes however these innovations are designed for high-resources settings and do not adapt well to more challenging contexts, leaving more vulnerable populations without access to even basic medical technologies. Organizations like MSF, the EPFL (through its EssentialTech Center) have joined force over the years to develop medical technologies specifically adapted to humanitarian crises and lower resource settings. Building on the respective, and complimentary, expertise of humanitarian organizations, the academia, and the private sector, innovative technologies, like SmartPPE, Agilis, and SurgiBox have been developed. The diversity of these experiences, the main lesson learned, and best practices will be discussed during this round table, using these projects as specific use cases.

The objective of the round table is to share insights on the best practices and advice to build successful partnerships to develop technologies for the humanitarian sector and for global health.

Projects pitched

Stérilux with STERIPLUS™


Yves Daccord
Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and society


Greg Castella
EssentialTech Center EPFL
Esperanza Martinez
International Committee of the Red Cross
Bernard Olayo
Center for Public Health and Development
Abiy Tamrat
Médecins Sans Frontières