What does it take to translate research into socially beneficial technologies like vaccines? Current policy that focuses on expanding research or strengthening incentives overlooks how the supply and demand of innovation is mediated by problem-solving processes that generate knowledge which is often fragmented and only locally valid. This paper details some of the conditions that allow fragmented, local knowledge to accumulate through a series of structured steps from the artificial simplicity of the laboratory to the complexity of real world application. Poliomyelitis is used as an illustrative case to highlight the importance of experimental animal models and the extent of co-ordination that can be required if they are missing. Implications for the governance and management of current attempts to produce vaccines for HIV, TB and Malaria are discussed.
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