UCL Health of the Public


Spotlight on Dr Julius Mugwagwa

This month we speak to Dr Julius Mugwagwa to find out how his research on the governance and development implications of technologies and innovations is improving the health of the public.

Dr Julius Mugwagwa

Associate Professor in Innovation and Development

Faculty of Engineering Science


What is your role and what does it involve?  

I am Associate Professor in Innovation and Development in UCL’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) and Global Health Thematic Director at UCL’s Global Governance Institute. My research, teaching and knowledge exchange interests revolve around the governance and development implications of technologies and innovations. I draw from my life sciences, technology governance and public policy background to advance critical interrogations of incumbent and emerging systems, structures and actions in health innovation and health system strengthening, with a special focus on low-and-middle-income countries. Among other roles, I lead a new module on Health, Innovation and Public Policy, a 15-credit elective on STEaPP’s flagship Masters’ of Public Administration Degree. 

How are you improving the health of the public?

I am currently co-leading (with Maria Kett, UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Healthcare) a project entitled ‘Tackling a Syndemic: Diabetes and Lessons from Covid-19. This is a Health of the Public funded short project in which we are deploying a place-based approach to explore pervasive health inequalities and provide cross-disciplinary evidence to support solutions to meet the needs and improve health outcomes of excluded and vulnerable populations in London’s borough of Brent, in collaboration with the Brent Health Matters team.

The other project I am working on is investigating localisation of medical manufacturing in Africa, looking specifically at whether and how African countries can harness and deploy lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic and from other relevant local manufacturing experience to develop and enhance sustainable capabilities for local manufacturing of medical health products. My current research builds on previous work which looked at issues such as harmonisation of medicines regulatory systems in Africa; innovative spending in health; product development partnerships and health system strengthening; making medicines in Africa; and roles of industry associations as intermediaries in health innovation systems.

What do you find most interesting or enjoyable about your work? 

What I find enjoyable, interesting and rewarding about my work is being able to understand, inform and influence actors and processes in the continuum from global health to local health. My place-based inquiry into theoretical, conceptual and operational nexuses and dislocations in this continuum has helped to inform and shape practice in different parts of the world, especially Sub-Saharan Africa. For example, my research on innovative spending in health was instrumental in the formation of Citizens Health Watch Zimbabwe, a platform for harnessing the experiences of patients and care-givers in health system strengthening.

How have cross-disciplinary collaborations shaped your research? 

My research draws from and feeds into cross-disciplinary approaches as a matter of necessity because of the pervasive, complex and cross-disciplinary nature of health issues. My experiences in the life sciences, pharmaceutical industry, policy and at the interface of science-technology-and-society underpin my interests in institutions and processes and how they involve and affect different actors in global and local health issues. No single ‘way of knowing’ is sufficient to understand these matters on its own.

What advice would you offer to others interested in developing cross-disciplinary research?  

Be intentional and sincere in challenging and questioning any privileged knowledge systems and ways of meaning-making, including one’s own comfort zones.

What's next on the research horizon for you?  

I have two major books in preparation arising from my research in the last 10 years; Handbook on Health and Innovation (Edward Elgar Publishing); and Local Health Matters in Africa: Innovation and Agency in the Wake of Covid-19 (Routledge). Further development and deployment of the notion of policy kinetics (Mugwagwa et al, 2014) is also in progress.

If you could make one change in the world today, what would it be?  

Making sure there is a global walk of the talk, re: Covid-19, that ‘we are not safe until everyone, everywhere is safe’. Local health matters. Agency matters.