Developing joint business ideas and getting successful projects up and running – that's the pledge the Darmstadt-based science and technology company Merck and GIZ agreed to on 19 May within the scope of the third lab of tomorrow. Within the framework of this event, Christoph Beier, Vice-Chair of the GIZ Management Board, and Kai Beckmann, Member of the Executive Board and Chief Administration Officer at Merck, signed a Memorandum of Understanding securing a two-year partnership. ‘In keeping with the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals, this partnership seeks to share expertise, technologies and financial resources, thereby helping to improve healthcare provision in Africa. This includes conducting more healthcare-oriented labs of tomorrow with Merck,’ said Beier.
Once again, at this third lab, more than 50 entrepreneurs and experts, including representatives of major companies such as Siemens, SAP and Bayer, alongside start-up pioneers and representatives of NGOs, pooled their brainpower to develop business models to resolve a real-life challenge besetting an emerging market or developing country. From 17 through to 19 May, the lab held at Merck's Innovation Centre in Darmstadt concentrated on smart logistic solutions to improve access to medicines and medical diagnosis in Kenya. For this lab at Merck, the organisation team of the Cooperation with the Private Sector/Corporate Engagement for Development Sector Project worked closely with the Access to Medicines Global Project to align the challenge perfectly with the current situation in Kenya. Furthermore, the Global Project established contacts to Kenyan experts who shared their knowledge about health and logistics with the companies concerned.
During this design-thinking workshop, entrepreneurs from the fields of health, pharmaceuticals, logistics and IT joined forces with the experts to create a total of ten business models for the chosen challenge. This resulted in ideas for telehealth technologies, such as apps or platforms for the secure transmission of important data and remote medical diagnostics. Other ideas focused on cooling applications for medicines or on creating an online marketplace for pharmaceuticals to reduce price pressure.
The idea of delivering life-saving medicines by drone was also put forward. To demonstrate this concept's feasibility, Tom Plümmer, a participant from the start-up Wingcopter, flew his drone around the Merck plant. He is convinced by the business models and said, ‘I see many areas and tasks that could be combined. We could initiate a sort of network of ideas that would facilitate mutual inspiration and support.’ Both those creating the ideas and the experts praised the developed models. ‘I'm impressed by the inputs and energy in this room,’ said WHO’s Moredreck Chibi. ‘I'm already looking forward to seeing the impact of these models once they've been worked out in detail.’
As with the previous labs, the highlight of the event again revolved around the presentation of the various business models on the third day of the workshop which attracted prominent figures such as Günter Nooke, who is both Commissioner for Africa at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and also the German Chancellor’s Personal Representative for Africa. Other leading figures in attendance included the aforementioned Christoph Beier and Kai Beckmann. Everyone was equally impressed by the participants' energy. Said Nooke, ‘It's about resolving an actual problem and that's something BMZ and GIZ can't do on their own. Getting businesses and stakeholders from the partner country on board too is the only way of dealing with the complex issues involved. This is precisely what happens in the lab of tomorrow and I'm convinced that this approach will help drive development.’