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USAID and the Academy Showcase Innovative Technologies to Serve World's Poorest

A UN General Assembly Week event stressed the need for global collaboration in developing science and technology solutions to the most pressing problems of poor communities.

Published September 23, 2010

A solar-powered autoclave for sterilizing surgical instruments in the field, a portable irrigation system that instantly converts saltwater to fresh water, and a bicycle that can be converted to a corn sheller or cell-phone charger were among the innovative and inexpensive technologies introduced by 18 teams of inventors at a science fair and development forum yesterday. The Science, Technology & Innovation Forum, hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the New York Academy of Sciences during UN Week festivities, highlighted the work of teams of inventors from laboratories at world-class public, private, and academic organizations that have made the integration and application of science, technology, and innovation for development their primary goal. The event also featured several talks about the importance of innovative science and technology and global collaboration to solve problems with and for communities in need.

"Many of today’s global challenges are shared and require solutions that cross borders, sectors, and disciplines, and addressing these issues cannot be met without appropriate scientific knowledge and technological expertise," said Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator. In announcing USAID’s Grand Challenges for Development strategy, which is designed to solve some of the most difficult development problems facing the poor in all parts of the world, Dr. Shah said, "At USAID, unleashing new technologies and game-changing innovations means taking a new approach and we intend to target our investments in areas where we can have the greatest impacts, improving the lives of millions."

Dr. Shah noted that there is unprecedented momentum within USAID and among many government, host-country, foundation, and private sector partners to integrate better science, technology, and innovation to solve today’s most pressing needs using frugal, high-impact, life-saving, and income-producing products and technologies.

Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, leader of a scientific trial supported by USAID that showed promise for a microbicide-based method of protecting women from HIV infection, highlighted the importance of partnerships between research, public health, and business communities that were critical to this breakthrough. And Ms. Shaifali Puri, Executive Director of the Academy's own Scientists Without Borders initiative, discussed a new approach to cross-sector global collaboration: the Scientists Without Borders open innovation web platform. “Our novel tools provide dynamic and meaningful ways for passionate problem-solvers from all sectors, disciplines, and geographies to engage their expertise, connect with others similarly interested, and exchange resources and knowledge to improve the quality of life for the world's poorest people,” Puri said.

Ellis Rubinstein, President of the New York Academy of Sciences, said, “Like the visionary organizations that presented novel and high-impact technologies here today, the Academy is committed, through initiatives like Scientists Without Borders, to develop new ways to leverage the global power of scientific innovation in order to improve the quality of life for the world's poorest people.”

All of the inventions exhibited, including the Bicilavadora pedal-powered washing machine, the Dirt Power microbial fuel cell battery, and the Spiral Pine Needle Cookstove, are already in use or are poised to enter the marketplace, and all have significant life-saving and income-producing impact or potential. More information about each of the exhibitors and their products, and video footage of the event, can be found on the USAID website at

For more information about USAID and its programs around the world, please visit

Scientists Without Borders is a public-private partnership that was conceived by the New York Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the United Nations Millennium Project. For more information, please visit For press inquiries, please contact Adrienne Burke, Director, Public Outreach, The New York Academy of Sciences, 212.298.8655 or

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide since 1817. With 24,000 members in 140 countries, NYAS is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. NYAS' core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. For more information, please see