New technologies for humanitarian aid
09.03.16 - EPFL and the International Committee of the Red-Cross launch the Humanitarian Tech Hub, a research program aimed at developing technological solutions to help people in conflict zones.
The Humanitarian Tech Hub is an ambitious research and development programme that is being launched by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). The plans were unveiled today during ICRC President Peter Maurer's visit to the EPFL campus in Lausanne.
The agreement between the two institutions sets out a four-year programme whose goal is to foster collaboration between the humanitarian and scientific sectors, as well as specialists in other fields, to develop technologies to tackle the humanitarian challenges facing the world today. There is no shortage of avenues to explore: energy, water, construction, logistics, the environment, information and communication technologies, and biomedical technologies, to name just a few. With more than 150 million people worldwide affected by humanitarian crises, the demand and potential applications are enormous.
The first product to come out of the Humanitarian Tech Hub – an artificial foot that is robust, affordable and suitable for all terrains – will be designed specifically for amputees who need to be particularly mobile. It will complete the range of prostheses that the ICRC already uses. In 2014, ICRC-supported physical rehabilitation services and prostheses enabled over 300,000 people around the world to regain a certain degree of independence.
"We have been committed to development and cooperation for more than 40 years," explained Jean-Claude Bolay, director of the EPFL's Cooperation & Development Center (CODEV). "Our partnership with the ICRC carries on that tradition. We recognize the need to focus on humanitarian-related innovation."
"I am excited about the creation of this hub," said Klaus Schönenberger, head of the EPFL's EssentialTech programme. "We currently develop technological and industrial solutions tailored to the Global South. Now the humanitarian sector will benefit from our approach."
"The launch of the Humanitarian Tech Hub with EPFL reflects our desire to find practical and effective ways to solve the specific problems that people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence are facing today," said Pascal Hundt, head of the ICRC Assistance Division. "By working together to develop innovative approaches, we can do more to help those most in need."
The Humanitarian Tech Hub will be hosted by EPFL but managed jointly by staff from the two institutions, thereby combining the ICRC's humanitarian experience with EPFL's capacity for innovation.