Futuribles Journal n° 401

Entreprises, travail - Recherche, sciences, techniques

Reverse Innovation: Towards New North-South Relations?


The fact that many markets in the industrialized countries are saturated and competition between companies to win market share in the emerging countries is increasingly fierce makes innovation in both products and services an absolute “must”. In this connection, a new concept –reverse innovation– first outlined in a work published by Harvard Business Press in 2012, is gradually gaining ground. By way of a genuine feedback loop, an innovation developed on the ground in the emerging countries ends up being produced for –and made available in– the developed world.

Jean-Michel Huet details the origins of this concept of reverse innovation and shows how it differs from other modes of innovation such as “frugal innovation”, for example. He also presents several practical illustrations of reverse innovation in the automobile, health and agribusiness sectors and with regard to sustainable cities. Finally, he underlines why this concept could spread in the medium to long term and help foster the emergence of win-win North-South partnerships.

Above and beyond the particular cases presented, this article sheds light on a more general trend in which many innovations “trickle up” after being developed “out in the field”, whereas within many companies and public bodies the requisite creativity seems to be stifled.

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