FACT SHEET: Harnessing Innovation for Global Development

“We’re expanding scientific collaboration with other countries and investing in game-changing science and technology to help spark historic leaps in development.”
– President Obama, September 2010

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 8, 2012.  President Obama’s Global Development Policy, released in Fall 2010, calls for investments in game-changing innovation to accelerate progress toward development goals in health, food security, climate change, energy and environmental sustainability, and broad-based economic growth.  Focusing on innovation utilizes the U.S. comparative advantages in research and innovation, making our efforts more effective and efficient. 

Today, government and private sector leaders gathered at the White House to highlight progress in answering President Obama’s call to use science, technology and innovation to promote global development.  At this event, several new public and private sector efforts were announced that will:

• Harness the energy, idealism, and expertise of university students and faculty to generate, implement, and evaluate new solutions to critical development challenges;

• Make the greatest use of scientific breakthroughs by expediting commercialization of inventions for humanitarian purposes and rewarding companies that use their patented technologies to solve societal challenges; and

• Leverage advances in Internet and communication technologies to accelerate research and scale innovations – such as financial services for the unbanked– faster, further, and more efficiently.

“A core part of my global development strategy is harnessing the creativity and innovation of all sectors of our society to make progress that none of us can achieve alone,” said President Obama.  “The new collaborations we’re launching today will help save lives from hunger and disease, lift people from poverty and reaffirm America’s enduring commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being.”

From the Green Revolution to the historic scientific achievements that have marked the “Beginning of the End of AIDS,” the United States has played a leading role in driving innovation for dramatic and lasting impact on the lives of millions in the developing world.  Today’s event called for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, asking public and private sector partners alike to bring their expertise to address today’s global challenges.  New public and private sector efforts include:

Engaging University Students and Faculty

 A new U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) partnership with universities to define and solve large development challenges:  The program will focus the next generation of problem solvers on development’s most vexing challenges, and harness the energy and idealism that exists in universities across America and the developing world.  These novel partnerships with universities will strengthen the understanding of potential problems and the range of solutions, support multidisciplinary approaches to development and encourage innovation to improve the efficacy of our development interventions and to reduce costs to U.S. taxpayers.  USAID will fund awards for single university centers and consortia centers and will request that applying universities provide matching funding to leverage USAID’s investment.

• University of California at Berkeley facilitates technology commercialization for global good:  The University of California at Berkeley will adopt the National Institutes of Health model term sheet for non-profits for licensing technologies that can diagnose, prevent or treat neglected tropical diseases, malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.  Pre-negotiated license terms reduce transaction costs and promote collaboration among universities, industry and the global nonprofit sector.  Partnerships and contracts under Berkeley’s Socially Responsible Licensing program currently target therapeutic, diagnostic, vaccine, sanitation, and agricultural biotechnology solutions for use in developing countries. 

• Technology and innovation for sustainable development: Just last week, a “Rio 2.0 Conference” was hosted by the State Department and Stanford University.  At the conference, a variety of Silicon Valley tech firms and students joined officials from across the world to participate in an innovation “unconference” to lay the foundations for broader cooperation on sustainable development in anticipation of Rio+20 in June 2012.  This conference demonstrated the value of modernizing global participation and the potential of new networks, technologies and coalitions to develop solutions to sustainable development challenges.

Making the Greatest Use of Scientific Breakthroughs

• U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Patents for Humanity Program rewards companies that use patented technologies for humanitarian endeavors:  Patents for Humanity will be run as a prize competition, awarding applicants who demonstrate how their patented technology advances solutions to pressing challenges we face as a planet. Winning participants will receive vouchers for accelerated processing for select matters in front of the USPTO. The program will seek to recognize laudable humanitarian endeavors from entities of all sizes, enabling small businesses to effectively participate.

• New model licensing agreements from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy:  The National Institutes of Health will expedite licenses to not-for-profit institutions such as Product Development Partnerships (PDPs) with a demonstrated commitment to diligence in providing broad global access to technologies.  This model agreement, with terms generally accepted by non-profits, will reduce transaction costs and encourage the transfer of more government owned technologies to promote global public health goals.  Previous technology transfers include a meningitis vaccine saving lives in sub-Saharan Africa, and vaccines for dengue and typhoid fever, currently in clinical development.   The Department of Energy (DOE) will offer a license to not-for-profit organizations with a demonstrated commitment to providing global access to clean technologies and services. Licensees will pay a reduced fee and a nominal royalty.   These organizations will have access to the unlicensed patents held at DOE Headquarters for clean energy technologies.

• Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory partners to encourage use of breakthroughs in the developing world: The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is creating the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, established to foster the discovery, development and deployment of technologies that will advance sustainable methods of fighting global poverty and related social ills. Working with existing partners such as Oxfam America, WaterHealth International, and Darfur Stoves Project, the Institute will create a pipeline for demand-driven technologies by matching Berkeley Lab’s advanced research capabilities in affordable, low-carbon solutions with the needs of developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

• Training lawyers on how to include humanitarian use in technology contracts:  Global Access in Action, with pro bono support from the law firm Baker & McKenzie, will develop and implement a program to educate patent holders and their lawyers about humanitarian use licenses for life-saving intellectual property.  Additionally, the American Bar Association will orient its members on USPTO’s Patents for Humanity program.

• A new center for market-based adoption of global health technologies: The USAID Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact has been launched to promote and reinforce innovative, business-minded approaches and market-based solutions to address the key bottlenecks in development, introduction and scale-up and to accelerate impact for some of the world’s most important health challenges.  The Center will develop best practices and seek cross-cutting opportunities to improve the health and efficiency of the marketplace; align investments in existing and new innovations and interventions with the USAID’s global health priorities; catalyze innovation and partnerships; and support rapid introduction of and/or access to priority interventions.

Leveraging technology to accelerate research and scale innovations 

• Utilizing electronic and mobile payments to save on costs and increase financial access: The U.S. Government has long been a leader in utilizing electronic payments, including by cards and mobile payments when possible. USAID will increase the use of electronic payments in programs administered by USAID Missions and their implementing partners wherever appropriate alternatives to cash exist.  Based on evidence from pilot programs, electronic payments have the potential to increase the productivity of development projects by up to 15 percent. Wherever feasible, electronic payments and mobile money will be used to extend the reach of USAID and partner services, in support of greater gender and financial inclusion.

 New information sources for a network of mobile internet-connected “Plant Doctors” to make agricultural knowledge more broadly available: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with CABI Plantwise to increase food security by decreasing crop losses in 19 countries.  USDA will be a content provider to the Plantwise global knowledge bank which brings together diagnostic, treatment and distribution information crops, pests and diseases.  The knowledge bank supports CABI “Plant doctors” who work as local extension agents at more than 180 plant clinics globally and connect with researchers, regulators, and input-providers.  This partnership brings the best worldwide data on crops, pests and diseases – both their distribution as well as information on how to control pests and diseases – to local farmers in the developing world. 

 A new “app store” for development to spur humanitarian apps and software: USAID has joined forces with today’s leading technology companies to build an “app store” for development-oriented software.  The platform will enable public and private technology interventions to be scaled and replicated across multiple countries, programs, and implementers while creating a marketplace of ideas and applications.   This partnership will take advantage of the knowledge of “cloud computing experts” from major technology companies such as HP, Cisco, Accenture, and ESRI to increase the productivity and efficiency of USAID’s development assistance.

• A new prize to reduce the cost of micronutrient powders: Scientists Without Borders and PepsiCo are partnering to advance the winning solution from the 2010 Maternal Health and Nutrition Challenge, which generated novel ideas from 300,000 people in 22 countries.  This Spring, Scientists Without Borders, the Sackler Institute at the New York Academy of Sciences, DSM, and its humanitarian arm Sight and Life, will issue a prize to reinvent the packaging for widely-distributed micronutrient powders.  Current packaging creates significant waste and accounts for 2/3 of the total production cost of this critical nutrition intervention. 

• A Digital Development Leadership Program to provide cost-effective telecommunications assistance:  Harnessing the human capital and expertise throughout the United States government to assist with telecommunications issues in development, USAID will partner with six agencies to deploy the government’s foremost telecommunications experts. U.S. government legal and technical experts will assist in areas from strengthening responses to natural disasters to developing regulatory capacity for host country governments.  Participating U.S. agencies include the Department of State, the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Commerce through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the International Broadcasting Corporation.

 New web tools to facilitate research on food crops and neglected diseases:  The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with Bioversity International and the Global Crop Diversity Trust, recently launched GRIN-Global, a plant genebank information management system that enables researchers to more efficiently source crop breeding material with specific traits.  The National Institutes of Health is developing Global Health Connect, a free online database of disease data and information, with BIO Ventures for Global Health, TropIKA supported by World Health Organization Tropical Disease Research, and Thomson Reuters IP and Science Group–Discovery Logic, Inc.  By bringing disparate databases and research together and suggesting new insights for old problems, this resource will accelerate the development of lifesaving treatments and combat the neglected tropical diseases that afflict the world’s poorest people. 

• Education technology partnerships to increase literacy: USAID is organizing a new international alliance to explore and catalyze the use of mobile devices to accelerate quality educational outcomes. The partners in this mEducation Alliance include the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Education, Peace Corps, World Bank, IDB, UNICEF, UNESCO, British Council, World Vision, the International Society for Technology in Education, Web Foundation, Lucent-Alcatel, Mastercard Foundation, and GSMA. A lead working group of this initiative is Mobiles for Reading, which is also part of the recently launched All Children Reading Grand Challenge for Development competition to spur game-changing innovations for early grade reading.