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U.S. Harnesses Innovation for Global Development
February 9, 2012

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
February 8, 2012

A man holding petri dishes
The petri dish on the left, shown in Haiti’s national laboratory, indicates a positive test result for cholera. USAID awards grants to find development solutions in Haiti.

Private sector and government leaders gathered at the White House February 8 to highlight progress in using science, technology and innovation to address global challenges.

They heard about several new public-private partnerships to accelerate progress toward development goals in health, agriculture, education, climate change, energy and economic growth. The partnerships will tap the idealism and expertise of university students and faculty to find new solutions to development challenges, speed the commercialization of scientific breakthroughs for humanitarian purposes and use communication technologies to accelerate research and innovation, according to a White House fact sheet.

“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,” President Obama said in the fact sheet. The president launched his global development policy in fall 2010.

New partnerships include the following:

• The University of California at Berkeley will adopt a National Institutes of Health model of pre-negotiated terms for nonprofits to use in licensing technologies to diagnose, prevent or treat tropical diseases, tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS. Pre-negotiated terms can reduce costs and promote collaboration among universities, industry and the nonprofit sector to find solutions that can be used in developing countries.

• The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is working with nonprofit partners to create a pipeline to demand-driven technologies by matching the lab’s advanced research capabilities in affordable, low-carbon solutions with the needs of developing countries.

• To make the greatest use of scientific breakthroughs, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patents for Humanity program will award patent applicants who demonstrate how their technology can be used for humanitarian purposes. The American Bar Association will inform its members of the program and the law firm Baker & McKenzie will train patent holders and their lawyers about humanitarian-use licenses for lifesaving intellectual property. The Department of Energy will offer licenses to nonprofits that provide access to clean technologies and services. Scientists Without Borders, PepsiCo and other partners will award a prize for the invention of new packaging for widely distributed micronutrient powders to undernourished recipients.

• In agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has partnered with the nonprofit CABI to bring together diagnostic, treatment and distribution information on crops, pests and diseases. CABI’s Plantwise initiative brings the best worldwide data on crops to farmers in the developing world.

• USDA also has partnered with Bioversity International and the Global Crop Diversity Trust to launch a global plant gene bank that enables researchers to source crop breeding materials with specific traits. Similarly, the National Institutes of Health is developing Global Health Connect, a free online database of disease information that can be used to develop new lifesaving treatments.

• The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is also organizing an alliance to teach literacy using mobile devices and another to build an “app store,” creating a marketplace for ideas and applications of development- and humanitarian-oriented software.

“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,” Obama said in the fact sheet.