The Role of Innovation in Addressing Social Needs

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Innovation is fundamental to business survival and growth. Business needs to continually seek and exploit new ideas to remain competitive in the industry. Innovation delivers benefits to the company and the nation as a whole by delivering value to the consumers and wealth for the business. Successful innovation requires an entrepreneurial spirit to facilitate the generation of ideas, which involves taking risks. Change is a continuous process that requires perseverance and commitment. Therefore, business must engage in continuous improvement of their products, services, and processes to achieve long-term success. Innovation and creativity have become vital for companies due to international competition and continued evolution of the business environment. Significant factors that drive innovation include the market need, company resources, research environment, and company strategy. Management of the change process is crucial in attaining successful innovation. Innovation process involves recognition of improvement opportunity, gathering the necessary resources (finance, people), exploiting the idea, and creating value.

How can innovation address social need?

Collaboration between business and the public is urgently needed to foster integration of social challenges into innovation and research. The process of undertaking innovation that delivers social and economic requires utilization of social sciences and natural sciences. The social challenges include security, climate change, aging needs, and energy efficiencies. A better innovation must be adopted for instance one that applies science and technology to deliver public and social value (Hill, 2014, p.35). The incorporation of the social needs in the innovation activities is likely to avail opportunities that may provide lasting solutions to the current social needs. For innovation to address social needs, the organization must have the proper understanding of the scope of the needs to be met.

Also, involvement and interaction between stakeholders such as innovators, private investor, scientists, government, policymakers, and the public are essential to mobilize the necessary interest and capabilities required in undertaking innovation and research (Bessant, 2011, p. 39). Policy makers play a key role in facilitating change by providing the necessary instruments and support mechanisms. Appropriate resources such as funding must be availed as well as the installation of the proper research system. Innovation may address the social need through collaboration with the consumers to understand the emerging needs, thereby initiating research and development products or re-invent products that solve the identified needs (Morris, Ruppert-Stroescu, & Montgomery, 2014, p. 297). Social needs may further be solved through the utilization of technology and science to deliver better services to consumers without increasing the cost of purchase. Incremental innovation facilitates development and growth of new markets through re-invention of existing products to meeting the evolving social needs. Social needs may be solved through innovation activities such as the provision of new ways of serving the existing markets (Bessant, 2011, p. 23).

Every innovation should aim to deliver value to the business and consumers, for instance, availing quality products, creating employment, and providing solutions. Social needs in the society may be solved through the integration of different knowledge sets, being creative to enhance problem-solving capabilities, and developing and exploiting new ideas (Hill, 2014, p. 14). The value proposition of innovation should be clearly defined by detailing the specific benefits to be realized and to which market segment (Bessant, 2011). Some of the social challenges that may be solved through innovation include poverty, health challenges, and social exclusion.

Organization and technical innovation may help in addressing health needs through the provision of healthcare products that are more personal and preventive (Bessant, 2011, p. 57). Scientific discoveries improve quality of health care and lower the cost of care through the development of preventive medicines and efficient treatment mechanisms. Some of the recent innovations that have helped increase efficiency and reduce the cost of healthcare include biomedical data collection methods (genetic research databases and human bio banks), and electronic health records (Morris, Ruppert-Stroescu, & Montgomery, 2014, p. 287). Innovation may facilitate the creation of employment opportunities to the marginalized groups, which may help solve social exclusion. Inequalities and improvement in living standards may be addressed through the development of cheaper and affordable products and services. Innovation can address the social need through networking to assess project viability. Appropriate skills, knowledge, and competency (technological and non-technological competencies) are essential in mobilizing innovation activities that provide social benefits (Hill, 2014, 63). The ability of innovation to solve social issues is also dependent on the credibility of research and development personnel in-charge of mobilizing the change activities.

The process of addressing the social need through innovation begins with the definition of the problem. It is followed by obtaining relevant information to acquire the actual impressions and views of the problem. The next stage is a generation of idea on various solutions that may solve the identified social problem. Generation of ideas may be through brainstorming and lateral thinking. The cost and benefits of each option are compared to come up with the most appropriate solution. The best plan is presented to the stakeholders to acquire their approval for the implementation.

Development and designing of new products and services should arise from the social needs. The next step in the invention of the products and services is the evaluation of the feasibility of the innovation in regard to production capabilities (resources, skills, and competencies), and sales return. The aspect has followed the development of a prototype and utilization of the appropriate technology needed in the production of the good in large quantities. Research is thereafter conducted to facilitate successful development of the product to ensure to meets the identified need. The product may be re-invented or redesigned to address a particular social need in the society.

For new products to solve a social need, market research is required to obtain adequate knowledge of the way the people live and the challenges they encounter on daily basis. Adequate knowledge of the actual social need is crucial in developing products that respond to the actual need. Therefore, socialization with the society is required for a successful innovation. Innovation addresses the social need through the utilization of current technology to develop products that deliver economic value (Hill, 2014, p. 38). For instance, development of mobile phone was an incremental innovation that increased the rate of socialization by proving a more efficient means of communication. Mobile phones have eased communication and increased interaction through the social media.

With reference to one particular organization of your choice, explain how those on the ‘bottom of the pyramid' may benefit from the innovative imperative

‘The bottom of the pyramid’ refers to the group of people who are low-income earners and live below the poverty line throughout the world. It presents 80% of the world population thereby forming an interesting market for most of the companies. The underserved needs of the above population present potential innovation opportunities. Most companies such as Vestergaard Frandsen have undertaken innovative activities to provide solutions to the underserved needs of this population. The company has focused on corporate social responsibility where it has concentrated on radical and incremental innovations in creating life-saving products for the needy persons. The company innovation journey is directed towards earning profits through the invention of products that foster reduction in incidents of respiratory infection and diarrhoea in Sub-Saharan Africa. Vestergaard Frandsen is a profit for Purpose Company that caters to those at the bottom of the pyramid by availing the Life Straw water purification straw that turns dirty water into clean water safe for human consumption. Water purification is an expensive and time-consuming activity especially for the economically disadvantaged. The Life Straw has hollow fibres that aid in the removal of 99.99% of parasites and 99.99% of all waterborne bacteria (Zhou, 2013). Also, the company invented the Life Straw Family a filtration system for household water that removes 99.99% of waterborne viruses (Zhou, 2013). Life straw Products focuses on increasing the accessibility of clean water in the developing countries.

The end users of Vestergaard products such as the LifeStraw and the LifeStraw Family products in the developing countries are gifted with the products either through a health program or in case of an emergency situation such as the Haitian earthquake of 2010, and the Pakistani floods of 2011 and 2012 among others. Therefore, those at the bottom of the pyramid in these countries are able to benefit from the invention by consuming clean water, which enables them to save on drugs and hospital cost in treating waterborne diseases. The products are distributed through various partnerships that collaborate with Vestergaard Company namely corporations, governments, non-profit agencies, the ministry of health, and faith-based agencies. The neediest residents in Kenya have benefited from the Life Straw units through the Ministry of Health. Approximately 900,000 Life Straw Family units were donated in the Western region of Kenya where approximately 4.5 million people gained access to clean water (Zhou, 2013). The whole program cost Vestergaard Company approximately $30 million dollars but made more money through carbon credits awards. The carbon credits were attributed to the reduced carbon emission through the elimination of water boiling. Those at the bottom of pyramid mainly uses firewood to boil water as a way of purifying it, therefore the Life Straw units reduce the rate of water boiling for purification thereby preventing carbon emission into the atmosphere where it is able to earn credits for preserving the environment. The company also earns revenue by selling the carbon credits to people or companies who wish to boost their economic stewardship or reduce their carbon footprint.

Innovative imperatives also create employment opportunities for residents in the neighbourhood thereby helping eradicate poverty. Therefore, the needy in the area benefits from well-paying jobs that raise their standards of living. For instance, Vestergaard through the local ministry of health chooses people representatives and trains them on how to use the Life Straw products and the health and environment benefits delivered from the product. The trained personnel are employed to go door to door to educate the locals who benefit from the Life Straw products. The public health officials in the region are funded by Vestergaard to follow up the usage of the products to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness after every six months (Zhou, 2013). Therefore, this personnel is able to boost their income thereby raising their standards of living. Those at the bottom of the pyramid also benefits from the repair and replacement sites set up in the areas such as in the case of Vestergaard, which has several sites in every village which employees the residents.

Successful innovation targeting those at the bottom of the pyramid is dependent on various factors. Some of the fundamental factors that foster successful innovations include obtaining partnership, increasing accessibility, utilizing distribution channels that work, establishing and maintaining sustainable models, and providing high quality at an affordable (Bessant, 2011, p. 491). Good partnership facilitates successful innovation. Most of the people living in poverty especially in the developing countries have poor road network. Therefore, a company, which seeks to develop products targeting this population, must ensure accessibility by utilizing appropriate distribution channels.

In conclusion, organizations must continue innovating to facilitate social and economic change. A culture of innovation should be encouraged in the workplaces to encourage creativity and the generation of ideas. Organization leaders need to build a working environment that encourages innovation such as facilitating openness, trust, and risk taking. Innovation should be directed towards solving social problems in the society to improve the standards of living through the eradication of poverty. Adoption and translation of technology are fundamental in innovation in delivering value to consumers. Organizations should create value through process upgrading, enhancing capabilities, improving the existing products, and shifting to the sector to deliver with higher value. Innovation requires identification of opportunities where change is needed, generation of ideas, turning the ideas into reality through the building of the venture or availing the product. Also, successful innovation requires the acquisition of appropriate sources (money and people), competency, skills, and knowledge. Entrepreneurship spirit is required to drive change. Innovations that target those at the bottom of the pyramid need must be beneficial. Those at the bottom of the pyramid benefits from lowly priced goods, job opportunities, health services, good infrastructure, and other incentives.


Bessant J., and Tidd, J., 2011. Innovation and Entrepreneurship. University of the West Scotland.

Hill S., 2014. Creativity and Business Wealth. University of the West Scotland.

Hult Social Entrepreneurship, 2013. LifeStraw Turns Dirty Water Clean. Online available at:

Accessed 27/07/2018

Morris, M., Page, M., Ruppert-Stroescu, M., and Montgomery, D. (2014). Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. The Modern Land-Grant University (pp. 285-300). Purdue University Press.

Zhou J., 2013. LifeStraw Turns Dirty Water Clean. TriplePundit (People, Planet, Profit).

January 19, 2024


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