Product Innovation at UNICEF

Developing fit-for-purpose and value-for-money products that respond to the unmet needs of children

Child holding plastic bananas during class at a community centre

At Supply Division, UNICEF is turning ideas into scalable solutions. Product innovation involves the development of fit-for-purpose and value-for-money products that respond to the unmet needs of children. By working with field partners and programmatic experts to understand those needs, businesses and academia to develop products that meet those needs, and with programming partners and donors to bring those new products to scale, product innovation at UNICEF is having a tremendous impact for children.

UNICEF’s Latest Product Innovation:

The High Performance Tent

UNICEF has spearheaded the innovation of a new generation of multipurpose tents to improve emergency responses worldwide. The new tents are a result of an innovative co-creation process with industry. The High Performance Tent includes multiple add-on features to meet the needs of children in emergencies worldwide.

To learn more, visit the High-Performance Tent webpage

Link to video on it's hosted site.
UNICEF Product Innovation

Product Innovation Portfolio

UNICEF is managing a portfolio of Product Innovation Projects (PIPs) that respond to the needs outlined in UNICEF’s Strategic Programme areas, including Child Survival, Child Protection, Education and Emergencies. The current portfolio is constantly changing with new projects emerging and others leaving the innovation process once they are fully scaled or closed because they had not fulfilled the desired impact.

The Acute Respiratory Infection Diagnostic Aid (ARIDA) project involves the development of handheld devices that accurately diagnose pneumonia in children. 

The Oxygen Therapy project aims to provide governments with practical tools for building oxygen systems, such as an on-line decision-assist software and product procurement manual, so children can access life-saving treatment for pneumonia and other illnesses.

The Disability-friendly Squatting Plate Add-on in Emergencies is a modular component that fits on latrines to support access to sanitation services for persons with disabilities.

The Non-pneumatic Anti-shock Garments (NASG) project aims to accelerates access to commercially-available, life-saving, post-partum hemorrhage compression devices.

The Rapid Water Quality Testing project aims to develop an easy-to-use detection method that can accurately determine faecal contamination in drinking water ideally within 30 minutes or less.

The Height Measurement Device project aims to develop a portable and accurate measurement device for calculating anthropometric indicators such as stunting, wasting and underweight among children.

The School Furniture Designs project aims to develop innovative furniture designs and a procurement guideline for facilitating the local manufacturing and delivery of school furniture.

The High Performance Tent is a new and improved multipurpose tent used in emergencies to meet various programmatic needs in education, health, nutrition, and child protection.

Vaccine MicroArray Patches (VMAPs) is an innovative intradermal delivery technology for delivering vaccinations, an alternative to the conventional intramuscular, subcutaneous and intradermal immunization methods.

The Smart Pumps project is exploring the development of remote sensors and mobile technology to monitor use and functionality of pumps to predict failure before it happens.

The Scaling Pneumonia Response INnovaTions (SPRINT) project aims to scale proven interventions for the treatment of pneumonia: Amoxicillin dispersible tablets and oxygen therapy.

The Zika Vaccine project aims, with the support of WHO and PAHO, to advance R&D to address gaps in vaccine and diagnostic tools.

The Zika Diagnostics project sees UNICEF working with partners and industry to transform today’s under-supplied Zika Virus (ZIKV) diagnostics market.

The Amoxicillin Adherence Aids project’s goal is to increase the correct utilization of the Amoxicillin treatment regimen, in order to better treat pneumonia.

The Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage project's aim is to develop an appropriate household water treatment product that is suitable for emergency response situations.

The Complementary Feeding Bowl is a practical, frugal innovation to fight malnutrition and ensure that good feeding practices continue in the home. 

Product Innovation Process

Product innovation at UNICEF has five phases: Exploration, Need, Research and Development (R&D), Validation and Transition to Scale. UNICEF actively engages in the initial and final phases whereas R&D is generally undertaken by industry with UNICEF driving the process.

The governance process follows a system of phases and gates where projects live in one of five phases and can pass through a gate to the next phase when they receive approval from UNICEF Supply Division’s Innovation Review Board. The board meets monthly to review project submissions and decide if to advance a project through the next phase, suggest more work is required in the phase, or close a project. 

UNICEF’s Comparative Advantage to Product Innovation

With over 70 years of delivering life-saving products to millions of children worldwide, UNICEF is uniquely positioned to be a leader in innovating for children. With an enormous procurement power of nearly US$ 3.5 billion annually, UNICEF can drive businesses to invest in the development of quality products. UNICEF also brings strength in programming as the leading humanitarian and development agency working globally for the rights of children where the organization can drive scale through its respected relationships with local governments.

This global status - both in procurement and programming - gives UNICEF the ability to negotiate with Industry to develop the best-of-the-best products for children at an affordable price for programming.