Lab’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (LIGTT) produces first-of-its-kind blueprint for sustainable global development
Since the polio vaccine was introduced in the 1950s, one of the most dreaded diseases in history has been all but eradicated. Are there other scientific breakthroughs that could have an equally transformative impact on global human development, and if so, what are they?
When Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (LIGTT) tried to answer this question, it found there were no good answers—or too many answers. So LIGTT director Shashi Buluswar assembled a small team and set out to identify the world’s most-needed game-changing technologies. After two years of investigation and analysis, the result is “50 Breakthroughs: Critical scientific and technological advances needed for sustainable global development.”
“When we started looking around, we realized there was a huge concentration of technologies in a very small number of areas, most of which were incremental advances, such as in water filtration. There’s a new water filtration technology every year,” Buluswar said. “We decided to do our own study to find the big things that matter, that technology could move the needle on.”
The aim of the 50 Breakthroughs study is to give philanthropies, aid agencies, businesses, and technologists a blueprint for where to invest their resources to achieve the highest impact. The study was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Lemelson Foundation, and the Schmidt Family Foundation. USAID’s funding was made possible through its Higher Education Solutions Network’s Development Impact Lab, one of eight HESN Development Labs working to redefine problems, identify new solutions, and source development breakthroughs by tapping into the passion and ingenuity of university students, researchers, and faculty to deliver development impact.
“USAID invests in a wide variety of programs and technologies,” said Dave Ferguson, Director of the Center for Development Innovation of USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab. “We believe science, technology, and innovation can deliver transformational results, and the 50 Breakthroughs study is an extremely valuable contribution in this endeavor.”
The breakthroughs are divided into nine categories—global health, food security and agricultural development, human rights, education, digital inclusion, water, access to electricity, gender equity, and resilience against climate change and environmental damage—covering every aspect of global poverty.
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