During the past decade, a growing segment of SGBs has emerged that harnesses the power of invention to improve the lives of poor people around the world. However, these entrepreneurs’ ability to succeed is largely determined by factors outside their control, such as intellectual property rights or the available talent pool. If emerging-market countries hope to unlock the potential social and economic impact of invention, they must build vibrant ecosystems that support this kind of business.

One important step in building entrepreneurial ecosystems is creating a cohesive community where actors from different sectors can talk about this topic and establish ways they can better work together. In 2014, ANDE, with the support of The Lemelson Foundation, convened a series of roundtable events in Brazil, India, Kenya, South Africa, and the United States. These events convened experts, policymakers, and practitioners to explore the specific elements that foster strong ecosystems for invention-based entrepreneurs and to identify areas where additional work is needed.

These conversations revealed five key areas that must be addressed to build entrepreneurial ecosystems that can support impact-related technology development. They are:

1. Expanding access to physical capital and prototyping equipment.

2. Inspiring and educating the next generation of emerging-market inventors.

3. Streamlining the process of accessing markets.

4. Increasing understanding of local laws and regulation.

5. Unlocking patient capital to support earlystage inventions.

During the Brazil roundtable, participants identified an opportunity to use the country’s strong incubation infrastructure for traditional technology-based entrepreneurs to address social challenges. This sparked a conversation between ANDE members Instituto de Cidadania Empresarial (ICE) and ARTEMISIA, along with World-Transforming Technologies (WTT) and Fundação Certi.

Fundação Certi runs one of Brazil’s most prestigious business plan competitions and incubation programs for invention-based entrepreneurs. By incorporating ARTEMISIA and ICE’s experience with supporting social businesses, and with the financial support of WTT, the group decided to build a social business track onto Certi’s existing program. The new program aims to identify high potential impact investors and accelerate their businesses by providing a wide range of support. The program currently is being piloted in the state of Santa Catarina, but the group hopes to scale the program to a national level. 

In addition to the roundtable series, ANDE is strengthening the ecosystem for invention based entrepreneurs through the Capacity Development Fund. For example, ANDE is supporting its members NESsT and Santa Clara University’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI), which both recognized that a lack of talent is one of the biggest barriers to growth for invention-based entrepreneurs. To overcome this barrier, the two organizations are collaborating by leveraging GSBI’s global incubation platform and NESsT’s deep in-country expertise to develop a talent assessment tool that allows ANDE members and entrepreneurs to quickly map an inventor’s entrepreneurial skill sets and identify the best method of improving skills.