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WDI Scholars Target Sustainable Innovation, Healthcare

3/16/2009 --

New initiatives target emerging markets, technologies, public policy.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The William Davidson Institute (WDI) recently announced two appointments to launch new research initiatives that address significant global issues: the effective commercialization of "green leap" technologies for sustainability and the effective delivery of healthcare.

Stuart Hart, the S.C. Johnson Chair of Sustainable Global Enterprise and professor of management at Cornell University's Johnson School of Management, is director of WDI's Green Leap Initiative (GLI). He will remain affiliated with Cornell but will be based in Ann Arbor and work part time for WDI.

David Canter is director of the Business of Healthcare Initiative at WDI. Prior to the appointment, Canter was a senior vice president in Pfizer Global Research and Development, and director of the Michigan Laboratories in Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo.

Making the Green Leap
Sustainable innovation has exploded in recent years, but most clean-tech startups focus on high-end "green" markets, says GLI's Hart. Little attention has been paid to creative commercialization strategies or distribution models targeting the base of the economic pyramid.

Hart feels that underserved markets, where the infrastructure has not been built out, could be the ideal testing ground for "disruptive" clean technologies. (A new solar infrastructure, for instance, would disrupt the coal mining industry and coal-fired power plants.) Other disruptive technologies include biomaterials, biomimicry, wireless information technology, sustainable agriculture, nanotechnology, point-of-use water purification, and renewable energy.

"It's difficult to bring these next-generation, potentially inherent clean technologies forward on a commercial basis in established marketplaces," Hart says, noting that incumbent firms have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. "But it is possible to construct a new next-generation form of living and infrastructure from the beginning."

Regions in China can be ideal laboratories to launch the GLI because of the country's size, growth rate, environmental problems, social challenges, and clean technology potential. "It is possible to imagine these next-generation technologies fueling local economic growth and development, building livelihoods, creating jobs, increasing income, and also moving to tomorrow's inherently clean technology at the same time," Hart says.

The GLI is now building relationships with corporations, universities, and other entities in China. Hart is pictured at left meeting with representatives of Peking University. The China Entrepreneurs Club has emerged as a key potential partner. As Dividend went to press, GLI was developing student internships for summer 2009.

Hart holds a master's degree from Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He earned his PhD in planning and strategy from U-M.

Managing Healthcare
Continuing work he started in Rwanda as a Pfizer Global Health Fellow, Canter (pictured below in Rwanda) will generate research at WDI on how management skills can be better taught and measured in healthcare workers in developing countries. "If you improve management skills, a health center will be more effective in delivering care," Canter says, "and the health of a community will benefit."

In addition, the new Business of Healthcare Initiative will create a market-based protocol to assist developing countries in the shift from donor-driven to fully autonomous healthcare systems. Education, private businesses, and supply chains all come into play as healthcare systems transition toward autonomy. Management and leadership skills are necessary to navigate infrastructure, mobilize workers and volunteers, enhance patient care, and maximize limited budgets.

The initiative also will promote study of how public policy and the actions of private companies and organizations influence a country's dependence on foreign aid for healthcare, even when the strategy of foreign aid does not meet a country's needs. For example, half of the foreign aid for Rwanda goes toward HIV treatment and research, but only three percent of the people there are infected with HIV. Meanwhile, only one percent of aid goes toward treating pneumonia and diarrhea, which can be deadly in Rwandan children.

It is expected that student projects will be sourced through the initiative; closer connections to the School of Public Health and the Medical School are anticipated. Teaching materials will be developed in collaboration with WDI's Educational Outreach.

Canter is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of London, and a member of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Physicians (U.K.). He has degrees from the universities of Cambridge and Liverpool.

—Dan Shine



For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu