On 21 June, a seminar brought together companies, non-governmental organizations and policy makers to discuss ways in which to create wealth and value among people living at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) in emerging countries and the possible investment of the private sector in Research and Innovation in an inclusive and sustainable way. Participants discussed the fact that there are 4 billion people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid (BoP) in developing countries. These people represent a €3.7 trillion global consumer market and are increasingly being seen as the customers of the future. They thus represent new markets and a growing innovation capacity in the healthcare, food and housing sectors.

MEP Nirj Deva (ECR, UK) stressed that the meeting should act as a Call to Action for the private sector and donors. He highlighted that the problems facing them are often similar: improving health care delivery, decreasing the cost of new technologies, developing key improvements in infrastructure, increasing the awareness of disease, providing information and education for patients to access medicines and healthcare

Additionally, panelists discussed programmes launched last year in order to strengthen health systems and produce economic results. Anuj Pasrija from Novartis, explained how his company’s social business approach could be effectively deployed to deliver financial returns for investors and social returns for the poor in India. This new business model involves one medical educator and one sales supervisor in the process. The BoP is seen both as a growing market and as an innovative capacity. BoP outreaches vary: Awareness, Adaptability, Accessibility and Affordability. The mission of the project is to improve healthcare access for the poorest people in developing countries by providing better information, creating alliances and partnerships with local doctors, working with local governments and regulatory authorities, viewing people from underprivileged backgrounds as consumers and, finally, prioritizing social investments over business growth.

Vodafone also highlighted some of its ongoing work in Tanzania where it created a very simple technological solution called ‘SMS for life’. A district officer sends a very simple SMS to a centralized system and then, he learns immediately where there is a lack of drugs and where an epidemic is growing. This system is very beneficial for eliminating all medical stocks and avoiding the retention of expired medicines. Launched in 26 countries and regions, the project has been deemed commercially sustainable, open, and looks to represent a transferable solution in developing countries because it does not require further investments.

Overall, panelists agreed that these new ‘Disruptive Innovations’, including cross-sector and multi-stakeholder partnership approaches, and new technologies, have to be pursued as new European guidelines. In order to ensure an access to innovative medicines and healthcare systems for everyone, even for the BoP in Europe, it was advised that the European Commission should follow these innovative practices. However, it was also noted that stakeholders must take certain key steps to support and develop these innovations.