March 2011

Anza Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship

Brown University, 2010 - $45,000

Tanzanian women and children spend more than four hours each day collecting and carrying water, firewood, and other heavy goods on their heads. Not only is this practice physically crippling, but it also keeps children out of school and robs families of time that could otherwise be spent on income-generating activities. The Anza team from Brown University has a solution. They have designed a low-cost hand cart that can carry 120 liters of water or 300 pounds of goods — six times more than a woman can load on her head.

Safe Agua Peru: Water System Innovations Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Art Center College of Design, 2010 - $50,000

Clean water is essential to life; lack of access to it results in poor health and economic hardship. Over two academic terms in 2009, the Designmatters Department at Art Center College of Design sponsored studios in which students traveled to Chilean slums and worked directly with residents to envision, design, and test solutions addressing the lack of safe, running water. For residents of San José, Chile, the team, calling itself Safe Agua Chile, generated six solutions involving the use, storage, and transportation of water.

This grant supports an extension of the project to a Peruvian slum. The Safe Agua Peru team will look for opportunities for water system innovations, capitalizing on the field research and outcomes of the Chilean project. Designmatters students will partner with the Innovation Center of the Chilean organization Un Techo Para Mi Pais, which has offices in eighteen countries throughout Latin America. The Peru project will include a new class of degree students working on this project as part of an upper-term transdisciplinary studio.

Accelerating Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship through Creativity Capacity Building

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $11,000

This grant supports the creation of entrepreneurial support programming for a workshop that will challenge people living in poverty in Arusha, Tanzania to create technologies that can improve their lives. The workshop, called Accelerating Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (AISE), is the result of collaboration between MIT’s D-Lab and Global Cycle Solutions, a Tanzanian company selling pedal-powered innovations for the poor. (GCS has participated in a NCIIA VentureLab).

Arusha, like many African cities, consists of a small, urbanized center surrounded by thousands of small-scale farmers. Ninety percent of these farmers use hand tools to cultivate and harvest, and irrigation, energy, health, and sanitation technologies remain too expensive for most. The mission of the AISE workshop is to produce innovative tools and other products that will multiply the incomes of smallholder farmers and local social entrepreneurs.

The foundational idea behind AISE is to engage and train communities in the entire technology design process, empowering people to develop and disseminate their own solutions. The methodology focuses on community members as problem-solvers and technology designers.

Sanergy - Sustainable Sanitation in Urban Slums

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2010 - $49,900

Nearly three billion people worldwide lack access to adequate sanitation, and in slums, where over one billion live, high population densities combined with a lack of infrastructure and resources makes the problem particularly acute.

Over the past year, the Sustainable Sanitation in Urban Slums team at MIT, now Sanergy, designed, constructed and implemented a pilot modular low-cost sanitation facility customized for the residents of two slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Two low-cost technologies are the centerpiece: a (<$200) prefabricated ferrocement toilet (versus $25,000 solutions at present) and a bicycle-powered exhaustion pump for pit latrines. These technologies are combined with a holistic deployment strategy: a micro-franchised network of sanitation centers, low-cost waste collection infrastructure, and a centralized processing facility that converts waste into biogas, electricity, and fertilizer that is sold commercially.

The team is partnered with Carolina for Kibera, a US NGO set up specifically in the Kibera slum of Nairobi and Ikotoilet, an Acumen Fund grantee. The NCIIA grant will enable the team to improve the sanitation facility design, establish a fabrication workshop in Nairobi, train local workers, and expand the pilot to validate the program and product.

Updates: As of October 2012, the team continues to reach towards hygienic, accessible, affordable sanitation for everyone in Nairobi's urban slums. In the last month, they have: sold 103 Fresh Life Toilets and franchised to 50 entrepreneurs; created 122 jobs; removed 170 metric tons of waste from the community; and served 1,000,000 paying customers with hygienic sanitation.

Open 2011 starts Thursday!

Open 2011, the nation's premier conference on tech innovation and entrepreneurship starts this Thursday!

Great speakers and presentations!

The best student-led technology innovations of 2011

Events and recognition

We'll see you March 24-26, 2011, at the Westin Alexandria Hotel in Washington, D.C.


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  • Berkeley Bangladesh Arsenic
    In Bangladesh, naturally occurring arsenic poisons shallow drinking wells. UC-Berkeley E-Team members Will Babbitt and Shefah Qazi perform a test for arsenic concentration in tubewell water in Matlab, Bangladesh as villagers look on.
  • Briquettes
    University of Colorado - Boulder is helping an Afghan NGO set up a business to have kids collect waste paper to create fuel briquettes.
  • Briquettes
    Waste paper collected by children is pressed to create fuel briquettes by disabled individuals in Kabul, Afghanistan. Sanu Kaji Shrestha demonstrates the process and the product.
  • Ecovative Design
    This former RPI E-Team has launched a company, Ecovative Design, to create environmentally friendly home insulation material made primarily from mushroom cells. The board is biodegradable, low cost, produces no pollution in the manufacturing process and insulates well.
  • Intelligent Mobility
    Intelligent Mobility, a non-profit from California Institute of Technology, produces wheelchairs made from old mountain bikes. Its products are less expensive and more durable than traditional wheelchairs.
  • Mashavu
    The Mashavu team from Penn State is using mobile phone and Internet technologies to enable doctors to connect with patients in the developing world.
  • Mashavu
    The Mashavu team from Pennsylvania State is using mobile phone and Internet technologies to enable doctors to connect with patients in the developing world.
  • mPedigree
    mPedigree, from Dartmouth College, has developed a mobile system to combat the counterfeit drug market.
  • Peru
    A Sustainable Vision project at RPI is helping locals build the Ecological Home for the Andes and include a drill and pumping system, a solar water heater, an improved bosta (dung) stove, a Trombe wall, and a retrofit cuyera (guinea pig housing).
  • Village Energy Pico Hydro
    This Sustainable Vision project at Baylor University called Village Energy creates village-level pico-hydro systems that produce enough and uses a franchise model.
  • PneumoCheck
    PneumoCheck, created by a Georgia Institute of Technology team, will help the 1.4 million Americans who suffer from pneumonia yearly by identifying it earlier than current diagnostic technologies.
  • Solar Ivy
    GROW, created by a former E-Team from the Pratt Institute, consists of flexible photovoltaic foil molded to look like ivy and piezoelectric generators acting as leaves.
  • Solar Lighting Systems
    This Cooper Union team has designed and tested a solar powered LED lighting system that offers people living off the grid in the developing world a brighter, healthier, and affordable source of light.
  • Solar Thermal Microgenerator
    This novel solar thermal technology, designed by an MIT team, is intended to bring sustainable, renewable, and affordable energy options to schools and clinics in Lesotho, Southern Africa.
  • SurgyPack
    The SurgyPack, developed by a Johns Hopkins team, is a transparent, semi-rigid piece surgeons can use to contain a patient's intestines during surgery. It saves an estimated $4,000 in operation costs and also decreases the chances of post-operative problems.
  • Uterine Atony
    More than three million women who undergo C-sections every year then suffer from a potentially lethal condition in which the uterus doesn't contract, as it naturally would after a regular birth. This University of Virginia team has created a mechanical device to compress the uterus and solve the problem.

Get Funded

With support from The Lemelson Foundation, NCIIA awards approximately $2,000,000 in grants annually to US-based faculty and student innovators. NCIIA grants fund projects and programs that:

  1. Support technology innovation
  2. Have commercial potential
  3. Have a positive social impact

Some recent NCIIA grantees are pictured to the right; hover any image to pause the slide show and view a description of the grantees' work. Move the mouse away from the image to resume the slide show.

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Vinit Nijhawan

Vinit Nijhawan has over 25 years of experience building five startups: as CEO of three, four were acquired, and the fifth has grown to over 300 people. Recently, Vinit was Venture Partner at Key Venture Partners and over two years sourced over 200 deals and made one investment which was acquired for $430 million. Vinit is an advisor and board member to several technology startups and was a Mass High Tech All-Star in 2005. Vinit has participated in over 120 panel discussions and paper presentations, and is a Board of Trustee of TiE Global, a non-profit that fosters entrepreneurship globally. Vinit is Managing Director of the Office of Technology Development and Director of Enterprise Programs at ITEC (Institute of Technology, Entrepreneurship & Commercialization) at Boston University. Vinit also teaches an MBA course on Entrepreneurship at BU. Vinit earned a B.A.Sc in electrical engineering from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Mayank Yadav

Mayank Yadav is a NCIIA Student Ambassador pursuing his Masters in Engineering Management Systems at Columbia University in New York. He completed his undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology in India and worked for a leading IT firm (Tata Consultancy Services, Mumbai) for two years before joining Columbia. Apart from his academic endeavors, he contributed to several initiatives at NIT and also started his first venture with a group of four friends.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is a NCIIA Student Ambassador and MBA student at Portland State University concentrating on Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship. He is also the Director of Membership for the PSU Alumni Association.