Biomedicine is a ripe field for social entrepreneurship and innovation, according to Arlen Meyers, the president and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs and co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurs.
Citing the example of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and a pioneer in using the microfinance model to assist low-income people in starting their own businesses, Meyers says most corporations aren’t doing enough to address economic inequity. “While corporate social responsibility is the latest fad, most companies don’t take it far enough,” Meyers writes in Innovation Excellence, a global innovation website. “Giving fish, or (Toms) shoes, isn’t the same as teaching people how to fish or start their own shoe business. The goal of the latter, as in almost every social enterprise, is to demonstrate measurable scalable impact.”
Meyers says social innovation and aiming for triple-bottom-line impact in biomedicine entrepreneurship could help reach sustainable development goals set by the United Nations. He offers a number of suggestions to achieve greater social impact through the business of medicine, such as:
- Teaching social entrepreneurship in biomedical entrepreneurship education programs and emphasizing “the relationships between social determinants, like education, and health.” He also recommends including more discussion about creating non-profits vs. for-profit businesses and incorporating social enterprise into medical systems science education.
- Judging startups by their triple-bottom-line impact: social, environmental and financial.
- Making microfinance loans to patient entrepreneurs
- Focusing on patient-funded business models
- Tapping into “the desire to do well by doing good”
- Developing a social entrepreneurial “sub-ecosystem focusing on biomedical, clinical and digital health innovation … in accelerators, scalerators, venture conferences, pitch competitions and courses.”
- Showcasing and celebrating biomedical and clinical social entrepreneurs
Meyers notes that “compassionate capitalism is another way to do well by doing good.” He adds, “Bioentrepreneurship is a means towards an end—creating user- or beneficiary-defined value through the deployment of innovation. Whether that end is selfless or selfish or (a) combination of both is your decision. What you decide will impact the future of our planet and the people who inhabit it. It will also put a smile on the faces of your stockholders and employees.”