Intellectual property (IP) protections facilitate innovation and invention around the world. The benefits are exemplified – in part – by global companies, whose business models are IP-driven. They leverage their IP, technology transfer and global research and production networks to develop innovative solutions to local issues. In this case study, we explore the impact of IP on India’s health care delivery.
Who: GE and Philips
Though India is one of the most populated countries in the world, there is limited government investment in health care. With limited resources, compounded by low income and education levels and location issues (i.e., community remoteness), delivering quality, low-cost health care can be a challenge.
By investing in local research centers, GE and Philips sought to design optimal solutions for local market conditions, to facilitate improved health care delivery.
Both companies have developed products and services to better meet health needs in India. These include:
- To address one of the highest death rates in the world of infants born prematurely, members of the GE team in Bangalore modified the company’s Giraffe Warmer–a high-end incubator that sells for $25,000 –to create a cost-effective $3,000 model. It was adapted to support local conditions, for example allowing for less-predictable electricity conditions and providing pictorial indicators for workers who have difficulty reading. The successful product is now exported to 80 countries.
- Philips developed the Mobile Obstetrical Monitoring (MOM) device, a mobile application that monitors expectant mothers and detects risks they are prone to during the early stages of pregnancy. Like GE’s incubator, it was adapted to local conditions (e.g., light, robust, and easy to use, with battery power and wind-up handle power supply back up). And because MOM uploads data to a central server, obstetricians and gynecologists can remotely monitor patients. The digital solution was later expanded to Indonesia, where during a one-year pilot, it improved the detection of high-risk pregnancies by 300 percent.
These inventions have made significant strides in improving health care in India and beyond, and are an important reminder of why it is so critical to foster and protect innovation. Unfortunately, India is challenged by weak enforcement and protection of IP rights. Hopefully—through continued success of initiatives like those carried out by GE and Philips—India can recognize the critical role that IP plays in its own communities, and do more to support innovation from others.