Innovation and Complementary Capabilities for Vaccines

The global competition to develop vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic has collapsed the typical timescale in which new technologies gain market dominance and leave alternatives behind. Despite the high number of vaccines in development, at the start of this study only three have been successfully introduced to global markets by seven firms working with six research institutes in five countries. How have these vaccines become dominant?

This project studies the mix, alignment and co-evolution of critical capabilities – innovation, manufacturing and complementarity – that enabled the firms, research organisations and regulatory institutions involved in their development to introduce them successfully to markets. We are interested in understanding the challenges faced by latecomers at different stages, from development, testing and/or manufacturing to market introduction.

The empirical evidence will be based on the experience of a selected group of firms and countries with distinctive levels of capabilities and regulatory, cultural and business contexts – Japan, the UK, Germany, India, Brazil, Argentina, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Recognising the importance of political economies in shaping research and development trajectories, the aim will be to identify the mix of critical capabilities within firms and between firms and regulators that unlocked the development of the new technological solutions and that enabled global market penetration.

The main scientific contribution of the project will be to extend the innovation literature to incorporate more centrally: (a) the role of complex interactions between innovation and political and other complementary market-enabling capabilities at the firm level and, (b) the required alignments between firm level capabilities and those of regulatory institutions in explaining the different capacities of firms and countries to introduce new products and technologies into the market.

The research insights of the project will be critical in supporting the diversification and expansion of innovation, manufacturing and complementary capabilities across firms and country regulatory agencies vital to face this crisis. They will be critical also for future crisis responses – whether the emergence of COVID variants or in addressing future pandemics, food shortages and climate change. Expanding the sources and types of knowledge and awareness of capabilities will contribute to increasing our collective resilience to shocks, and reduce the risk of depending upon just a few countries for critical knowledge and products

The project will work directly with project partners Centro de Investigaciones Para La Transformación (CENIT), Argentina; The National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), Japan; and the University of Sussex, UK, to deliver the project. Engagement with intranational institutions Inter-American Development Bank, UNIDO, the World Bank, WHO, WIPO, among others will aim to facilitate a globally holistic perspective.