UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


Vanderslott, Samantha

Email: s.vanderslott.12@ucl.ac.uk

The Problem with Innovation: Exploring the Role of Innovation in Policy Problems through the Case of Neglected Tropical Diseases

I am a second year PhD candidate in the Science and Technology Studies department at UCL.  My research interests focus on the role of innovation in defining or framing policy problems and the ways in which this affects proposed solutions.  The concept of innovation in relation to policy is often positioned in the simplistic terms of solutionism, technological fix or panacea, however this is rarely the case.  Innovation is political, ideological and contentious.  

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) as a global public health issue that has risen in prominence in recent years demonstrates this and I am developing case studies to chart this rise.  These diseases of poverty affect low income countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, although it is has been in the so-called 'innovative developing countries' (including Brazil, India and China) that have seen new policy directions and political motivations to address NTDs.  Ideas of innovation are being adapted to suit country needs. 

Through a historical policy analysis and qualitative fieldwork interviews I aim to:

1) Understand the strategies employed to tackle NTDs and how this is informed by the problem characterisation and shaped by various innovation actors from pharma companies to government research institutes.  It is a coproduction of the social problem of neglected diseases alongside innovation models deemed to tackle them.  

2) Explore in particular the market failure justification for innovation policy intervention and the tension between market and society, as we see in the discourse surrounding open approaches to innovation and intellectual property rights.  

My background is in economics, having studied Economics and International Development at the University of Bath followed by an MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy at the University of Oxford, where I began to focus on the political economy of innovation. After this I also spent three years in the public sector working at the UK Department for Business Innovation and Skills, specialising in entrepreneurship and venture capital policy.

Sam Vanderslott image