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Innovation Policy, Structural Inequality, and COVID-19

Shobita Parthasarathy

Abstract

COVID-19 has shown the world that public policies tend to benefit the most privileged among us, and innovation policy is no exception. While the US government's approach to innovation—research funding and patent policies and programs that value scientists’ and private sector freedoms—has been copied around the world due to its apparent success, I argue that it has hurt poor and marginalized communities. It has limited our understanding of health disparities and how to address them, and hampered access to essential technologies due to both lack of coordination and high cost. Fair and equal treatment of vulnerable citizens requires sensitive and dedicated policies that attend explicitly to the fact that the benefits of innovation do not simply trickle down.