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Original research
Responding to maternal, neonatal and child health equipment needs in Kenya: a model for an innovation ecosystem leveraging on collaborations and partnerships
  1. Richard Ayah1,
  2. John Ong'ech2,
  3. Edwin Maina Mbugua3,
  4. Rose Chepchumba Kosgei4,
  5. Katie Waller5,
  6. David Gathara6
  1. 1 Science and Technology Park and School of Public Health, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
  2. 2 Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya
  3. 3 Concern Worldwide Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya
  4. 4 Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
  5. 5 Concern Worldwide, New York, New York, USA
  6. 6 Consultant, Nairobi, Kenya
  1. Correspondence to Dr Richard Ayah, Science & Technology Park, University of Nairobi, Nairobi 00100, Kenya; ayah{at}


Background Up to 70% of medical devices in low-income and middle-income countries are partially or completely non-functional, impairing service provision and patient outcomes. In Sub-Saharan Africa, medical devices not designed for local conditions, lack of well-trained biomedical engineers and diverse donated equipment have led to poor maintenance and non-repair. The Maker Project’s aim was to test the effectiveness of an innovative partnership ecosystem network, the ‘Maker Hub’, in reducing gaps in the supply of essential medical devices for maternal, newborn and child health. This paper describes the first phase of the project, the building of the Maker Hub.

Methods Key activities in setting up the Maker Hub—a collaborative partnership between the University of Nairobi (UoN) and the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), catalysed by Concern Worldwide Kenya—are described using a product development partnership approach. Using a health systems approach, a needs assessment identified a medical equipment shortlist. Design thinking with a capacity building component was used by the UoN (innovators, public health specialists, engineers) working closely and with KNH nurses, physicians and biomedical engineers to develop the prototypes.

Results To date, four medical device prototypes have been developed. Two have been evaluated by the National Bureau of Standards and one has undergone clinical testing.

Conclusions We have demonstrated an innovative partnership ecosystem that has developed medical devices that have undergone national standards evaluation and clinical testing, a first in Sub-Saharan Africa. Promoting a robust innovation ecosystem for medical equipment requires investment in building trust in the innovation ecosystem.

  • co-creation
  • accessible
  • affordable
  • innovation

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors JO, RCK, RA, EMM and KW conceptualised and designed the study. RCK, RA and DG drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Philips Foundation through grants managed by UNICEF and Concern Worldwide. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the setting up of the ‘Maker Hub’ (SC 150156). The funding bodies had no role in the design of the study, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, and in writing the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval This report draws on the work that was undertaken to develop the Maker Space, an innovation ecosystem, and is a summary of activities that were undertaken. Ethical approval to undertake this work was provided by the Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi Ethics Review Committee (P441/08/2013).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. No data were collected for this study.

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