Bryan Farris

Calling All BoP Innovators: $100K Up For Grabs!

Its that time of the year again; until October 5th 2010, the Lemelson-MIT program is accepting nominations for their 2011 Award for Sustainability. The goal of the award is “to publicly recognize and financially reward individuals who have produced technological innovations and inventions that have made a positive impact on developing countries in the areas of agriculture, health, energy, and shelter.” In short, the award is a clarion call for young people to become tomorrow’s leaders in sustainable innovations. The winner will receive $100K from the Lemelson-MIT program.

The program describes an eligible candidate as one who:

  • is a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or foreign national currently working legally in the United States;
  • has created a product, process or material; made a technology more affordable; redesigned a system; or otherwise demonstrated remarkable technological inventiveness in addressing sustainability across the development continuum;
  • has provided evidence that their inventions have been adopted for practical use;
  • works in an area that ultimately improves quality of life (e.g., quality of air, water or soil; or pertains to health, energy, agriculture, shelter, biodiversity or ecosystem management); and
  • serves as an inspiration to young people, through their creativity, outreach or mentoring activities

If you think that someone you know might fit the criteria, you should absolutely nominate them to receive the award.

The Award for Sustainability offers more than just a large financial award; it also carries a lot of prestige, especially within the BoP space. Recent winners include:

  • BP Agrawal (2010) – A serial social entrepreneur focused on building solutions for improved healthcare and clean drinking water in India. BP Agrawal is probably most well known for Aakash Ganga – a rainwater harvesting project featured here.
  • Joel Selanikio (2009) – A doctor who invented the EpiSurveyor in collaboration with Kenya’s ministry of health; the EpiSurveyor is “a free, open-source mobile software program that makes data collection a more manageable and eco-friendly task for public health workers” used by the World Health Organization.
  • Martin Fisher (2008) – A social entrepreneur and founder of well-known organization, KickStart, which was recently featured on PBS for its Super MoneyMaker pump irrigation solution. Kickstart is focused on developing profitable and environmentally sustainable technologies for BoP customers.

The Lemelson-MIT awards have been in existence since 1995; to read more about the past winners and the program visit their site. In addition to the $100K Award for Sustainability, the Lemelson-MIT program also offers a $500K prize for “mid-career inventors dedicated to improving our world through technological invention and innovation” and a $30K Student prize for “promising young inventors studying at MIT.”

Please spread the word about the Lemelson-MIT awards; you never know who you might inspire to start innovating.