Towards a Global System of Innovation: the Role of Donors in Immunisation for International Development

Whetham, Charles (2023). Towards a Global System of Innovation: the Role of Donors in Immunisation for International Development. PhD thesis The Open University.



This research examines what role donors play with respect to innovation in immunisation for international development. It uses as its conceptual framework the global innovation system (GIS) model to examine the principal donors within the sector. Because the empirical data is in-depth, contextualised, and qualitative, the research design adopted is that of a multiple case-study of donor organisations, using triangulated, mixed-methods qualitative data collection. The examined cases are UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Knowledge gaps in the existing literature related to how these donors engage actors and institutions across different spatial levels for innovation; to how donors’ manifold power relations affect this; and to how donor structure and capabilities determine their particular roles in innovation.

The research finds strong evidence of an emerging GIS in immunisation for international development. This consists of a global sub-system and a set of sub-systems at the national level, each representing a country receiving development assistance in immunisation. Donors perform four principal roles within this GIS. Firstly, they provide, maintain and extend structural elements of the GIS, especially its networks and linkages between sub-systems. Secondly, donors generate and utilise resources of financial investment, market access and innovation legitimacy for the valuation of innovation. Thirdly, donors coordinate to ensure complementarity in the activities they and other actors provide, which enables effective distributed agency across the GIS. Fourthly, donors navigate the rules, norms and presumptions of the GIS on behalf of partnerships of actors, variously complying, co-opting or contesting them.

The relationship is shown between each of these principal roles and the system’s spatial levels, inter-actor power relations and donors’ structure and capabilities. This offers new, detailed understanding to close significantly the previously-identified knowledge gaps.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions