There are appropriately 38 million amputees in developing countries who do not have access to prosthetic care. These people face significant challenges in their daily lives, including travel and finding work.
This is why the Vietnamese start-up, Vulcan Augmetics, builds affordable, functional and upgradable prosthetics. Using 3D printing, they create custom, modular sockets for unique tasks. So, an amputee affected by a landmine can work as a waiter, simply by plugging in the suitable socket, perhaps a tray instead of a hand, into the core arm for maximum efficiency. Once that person has finished for the day, they can unplug the tray and insert a prosthetic hand. This innovative design gives Vietnam’s amputee population much needed job opportunities.
This is an example of inclusive innovation. Silicon Valley has, up until now, been synonymous with innovation. However, these particular technology experts are not often looking to help the daily lives of disabled people in Vietnam, for example. Inclusive innovation is about designing innovation that improves the everyday lives in the local context – in this case, helping amputees in Vietnam get back to work, ensuring the Vietnamese economy continues to grow.
Dr Klingler-Vidra has been working with the innovation foundation, Nesta to develop strategies for supporting inclusive innovation, based on research in Southeast Asia. She argues that inclusive innovation is also about involving the intended user.
In the case of Vulcan Augmetics, having an amputee participate in the design is essential to ensuring the technology is appropriate and effective for the user.
“In the Vietnamese context, inclusive innovation is about bringing demographic groups that tend to be unrepresented, particularly in technological innovation, into innovation sectors.”