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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge


Alexandre L'Heureux

Enabling an Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem in a Resource-Constrained Environment: a Case Study of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

The contemporary innovation paradigm not only focuses on rich, highly developed markets, but also structurally ignores and systemically disadvantages poorer and socially disadvantaged groups, exacerbating inequality gaps. This paradigm also fails to address the needs of low-income markets and to recognize their innovative potential. Furthermore, although local innovators have the potential to create a more inclusive innovation trajectory for the rising billions, they face significant barriers, have been largely under-studied and are poorly understood in innovation literature, limiting their potential impact.

This research contributes to addressing this problem by investigating what enables local innovation in resource-constrained environments through the development of a conceptual framework and the analysis of Bahir Dar in Ethiopia as a case study. This research offers a conceptual framework and a comprehensive map of Bahir Dar’s innovation ecosystem, along with strategic recommendations to enhance this ecosystem.

The Inclusive Innovation Framework, built from literature and field data, serves as a practical tool to map local ecosystems: the actors, the roles they play, the resources they have and create, and the system and institutional dynamics that influence innovation.

The preliminary map of the local innovation ecosystem in Bahir Dar outlines barriers such as the lack of diversity of actors, the lack of funding options for entrepreneurs, unreliable power and internet infrastructure, and the lack of prototyping resources and workspaces. This research offers recommendations to address these gaps, such as creating a centre of gravity in the ecosystem at Bahir Dar University, primarily through its makerspace and incubators, in order to create a micro-enabling environment for local innovators and convene stakeholders to strengthen the interconnectedness of the ecosystem. Bahir Dar’s innovation ecosystem may currently be nascent and unconducive to local innovation, but it is full of potential and could become a role-model ecosystem in inclusive innovation for lower income populations.