Ifakara Health Institute: Scaling up of research results and innovations for public health impact

'Young changemakers'
'Young changemakers' © FDFA

Investment in health research and innovation in Tanzania is a national policy priority but receives irregular public support. This contribution aims to strengthen the Ifakara Health Institute, a successful research institution with Swiss roots, to improve its research impact at policy and community levels. The intervention will also bring together researchers and end-users in an innovation hub to identify livelihood challenges of youths and innovative approaches to address these. Private sector partnerships with Swiss innovators will be primary clients of the innovation hub.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Employment & economic development

Business support & economic inclusion
Health systems strengthening
Infectious desease
Employment creation
Education policy
Health education
Urban development
15.06.2019 - 31.12.2024
CHF  2’900’000

Performance of research institutions in Tanzania is hampered by funding shortfalls. Research outputs often only enter the scientific literature without transferring effectively into marketable products. The Ifakara Health Institute (IHI), a product of a long standing successful Swiss-Tanzania partnership, is unique. Within East Africa, it is one of few health research organizations independently generating their main income through competitive research grants. IHI’s new strategic plan (2018-2023) focuses on outputs (=strategic initiatives) that will deepen the impact of research results beyond the making available of new knowledge to policy makers. The requested support will allow IHI to develop further its attractiveness as a research platform thus strengthening its financial independence.

Within the context of the 4th industrial revolution, in Tanzania as elsewhere in Africa, numerous innovation hubs provide creative co-working environments. These have mostly been launched in major cities. The expectation of innovation hubs is to support the creation of opportunities for start-up businesses. IHI proposes to catalyze the setting-up of an innovation hub, the first of its kind to be situated in a semi-rural environment under rapid socio-economic transformation. The proposed innovation hub will bring together scientists, prototype developers, start-up entrepreneurs and end users to develop innovative solutions to address local livelihood challenges, particularly those of youth.

Innovation oriented partnerships with Swiss private sector (Botnar Foundation, EPFL, Rigitech, EssentialTech) are expected to be primary clients of the hub. The hub will serve as a test platform for new technologies e.g. drones, block chains, mobile solutions, digital workshops etc. to evaluate the cost-benefit / effectiveness of innovative development interventions benefiting livelihoods of approximately 1 million people.

Objectives To promote and scale up innovative research approaches aiming to improve the impact of public health in Tanzania. 
Target groups
  • Populations in Ifakara, particularly youth, young women and girls
  • Local and international innovators & researchers
  • Research institutions; public, private, local and international
  • Policy makers such as Ministry of Health, Commission of Science and Technology (COSTECH)
  • Government of Tanzania
  • Private companies
Medium-term outcomes
  • IHI`s local, national, regional and global attractiveness as a research platform is durably strengthened and it`s research impacts optimally on the well-being of the local communities.
  • Thriving culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, producing solutions that contribute to the improvement of local community wellbeing and sustainable development.

Expected results:  

  • Improved policy influence through relevant research.
  • Attract, retain and develop competitive mix of high quality scientists, students and start-up professionals.
  • Research results increasingly address livelihood challenges of local youth and find uptake by young entrepreneurs for commercialization and sustainability.
  • Attractive platform and physical infrastructure for collaboration and innovation established.
  • Potential innovators identified and supported, as well as key partners engaged.
  • Opportunities and strategies for business acceleration and ways of commercializing innovative products and services explored.
  • Selected innovators and entrepreneurs trained and mentored on digital economy practices such as ideation, business development and technology transfer.

Results from previous phases:  

  • Quality, quantity and relevance of IHI research increased.
  • High quality data and knowledge products accessed by a broad range of users for decision making.
  • ISO accredited quality management, robust governance and renewal of high quality human resource.
  • Growing financial stability and management sustainability.

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Foreign academic and research organisation
  • Research Organisation of South East

Coordination with other projects and actors Ifakara cluster members, Swiss TPH, Essential Tech–EPFL, Rigitech, Robotech, Botnar Foundation, development partners, Ministry of Health
Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    2’900’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    2’065’652
Project phases Phase 7 15.06.2019 - 31.12.2024   (Current phase) Phase 6 01.09.2013 - 28.02.2019   (Completed)