Villgro Kenya in collaboration with the County Innovations Challenge Fund hosted the Health Innovation Learning Lab on June 11, 2019. The main objective was to examine lessons learnt from health innovation growth in Kenya, the drivers, enablers and best practices that support effective scaling up of low cost health innovations.

The meeting was structured around conversations with panels and keynote speeches of leading experts in innovative financing, health systems and the startup ecosystem.

The conversations were on Kenya’s health Innovation Ecosystem, Designing and delivering with scale in mind, Good practices for funding investments across the scaling pathway and pathways for scaling health innovations.

Challenges innovators face to scale came up with finance being the biggest hurdle People tend to undermine the financing of healthcare because it's looked at as a social value and not an economic value, yet health affects the economy.

Innovations require innovative funding and patience capital. Funding needs change as the innovation progresses along the pathway towards scale.

Dr. Sam Gwer of Afya Research Africa pointed out the gap between innovators who are not good at grant writing and funders,

“Opportunities are skewed towards those who can write good grants this locks out innovators with great products who are not in a position to do the same.”

Challenges in sustaining health innovations abound and designers of programs should plan with sustainability in mind. Innovations require innovative funding and patient capital to scale, this can be enhanced by high value private public partnerships.

On scaling innovations, panelists pointed out that replicating and adapting health innovations helps scale impact. This must however start from the design process, you can think about an innovation but if it is not sustainable and scalable then it is not ready. Innovators were also encouraged to think not only about problem solution fit but also problem market fit.

High value partnerships with the private and public sectors can open up a path to scale. In Kenya, public-private partnerships remain largely untapped as a source of support for innovations in healthcare.

The need for the private sector, government and academia to work together to provide solutions to challenges also came up.

Dr. Robert Karanja mentioned the need to change the mindsets of students in STEM to move from seeing academia as their obvious career path and instead transform them into applying their STEM skills into solving Kenya’s challenges.