Innovation for People and Planet: Reimagining Capitalism

Perspectives in Global Development: Fall 2023 Seminar Series


Around the globe, 800m people spend more than 10% of their household budget on health care, and nearly 100m of these are pushed into extreme poverty every year by out-of-pocket health expenses. A big hairy question facing us is: How can we make healthcare more affordable, and improve access to quality healthcare resources, for the people bordering the poverty line? Poverty remains our number one enemy, but increasingly and excitingly, we see opportunities to flip the situation and create mass prosperity. However, this requires a focus on agricultural innovations and allied livelihoods. So, the big question also morphs into: How can we improve productivity, reduce risk, increase income, and enhance access to essential goods and services for the poor? Global efforts to curb emissions and transition into a low-carbon economy can counterintuitively compromise economic progress in the Global South, leading to increased poverty and inequity. Another hairy question, then, is: How do we develop and deploy solutions to converge our development priorities with the overall emission reduction mission? The list is endless.

Low and middle-income countries need breakthrough technologies to address some of these complex problems, but an innovation ecosystem is required to address market failure and support entrepreneurial risk-taking. Social Alpha has created a Multi-Stage Innovation Curation & Venture Development platform in India that supports high-impact innovations by making them deployment-ready and investible through a full-stack lab-to-market de-risking model. It has demonstrated that some of the most challenging problems in health, climate and livelihoods can be solved to achieve sustainable development goals. However, this requires a convergence of science and technology, public policy, markets, and communities. In this talk, Manoj Kumar will focus on addressing market failure by de-risking innovations, creating blended capital pools, and attracting mainstream business interest in the development sector. It will also highlight that aligning the incentives of society, state, and markets is necessary to attract entrepreneurial and investment risk-taking, the two most critical ingredients of the innovation economy

About the speaker

Manoj Kumar is the Founder of Social Alpha, a multistage innovation curation and venture development platform for science and technology start-ups that aim to solve the most critical social, economic and environmental challenges.

Social Alpha supports entrepreneurs through a network of innovation labs, venture accelerators, blended capital pools and market access mechanisms. Selected start-ups get access to R&D infrastructure, sandboxes for pilots and validations, product management guidance, technical, business and regulatory expertise, early-stage risk capital and entrepreneurial mentoring. Since its inception in 2016, Social Alpha has supported over 250 start-ups, including 60+ seed investments and 100+ innovation grants.

Before founding Social Alpha, Manoj was an entrepreneur and an early-stage venture investor. Manoj serves on the boards of several companies, non-profits and research institutions. Manoj is also a Trustee of the Tata Institute for Genetics and Society and a Senior Advisor to Tata Trusts.

Perspectives in Global Development

The Perspectives in Global Development seminars are held Wednesdays from 12:20-1:20 p.m. eastern time during the semester. The series is presented in a hybrid format with some speakers on campus and others appearing via Zoom. All seminars are shown in Emerson Hall 135. Students, faculty and the general public are welcome to attend. The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Global Development, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the School of Integrative Plant Science as part of courses GDEV 4961, AEM 4961, NTRES 4961, GDEV 6960, AEM 6960, and NTRES 6960.

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