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Olin College of Engineering has been selected by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as a founding member of the Higher Education Solutions Network— a new, groundbreaking partnership among seven top American and foreign universities designed to develop innovative solutions to global development challenges.
Under the program, each university will establish Development Labs which will work with USAID's field mission experts and Washington staff to apply science and technology to define and solve key problems in areas such as global health, food security and chronic conflict.
USAID has awarded $15 million to Olin College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Colorado State University, University of California at Davis, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and University of São Paulo in Brazil to create the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), which will be led by MIT's D-Lab, a program that fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions in international development. IDIN seeks to enable technological innovation in developing countries by building on the success of the International Design Development Summit (IDDS) that Olin has co-led since its inception along with MIT and other institutions.
Olin faculty members Benjamin Linder and Oscar Mur-Miranda, co-principal investigators of the grant, will use the Olin funds to engage undergraduate students in research, create novel engineering curricula, provide internship opportunities and facilitate summits as well as participate in the network. They will also strengthen Olin's Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE) program, in which students spend their senior year developing technologies and ventures to increase incomes and meet daily human needs of the world's poorest people.
ADE and IDDS are key elements of Olin's innovative efforts to combine design and entrepreneurial thinking with technical expertise to address social challenges, including poverty alleviation. ADE is a joint program with Babson College, a premier business school consistently recognized internationally for its entrepreneurial leadership.
"Social ventures that combine technology and business innovation have huge potential to increase well-being," said Linder, associate professor of design and mechanical engineering at Olin. "In our experience, solutions can come from empowering people to be hopeful and creative together."
The Development Labs will initiate a global network to engage not only academics and students, but also a broader community around the world. Currently, in addition to the seven lead universities, the network consists of 22 additional funded and 76 non-funded partners in the U.S. and overseas. The network is envisioned to become a powerful, sustainable development nexus capable of overcoming barriers, bridging critical gaps, and leveraging the ability of higher education institutions to operate effectively in a rapidly changing world.
The Development Labs will establish technology hubs and knowledge centers across all geographic regions to advance global research and development. With hundreds of thousands of U.S. and international faculty and students engaged, the Development Labs will work to fully understand challenges to development, test new technologies, apply revolutionary solutions to global development problems and scale up these new technologies.
"The Higher Education Solutions Network is the latest step in USAID's efforts to harness the best ideas from the academic and scientific community and young people worldwide to foster transformational progress in development," explained USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. "Through this network of Development Labs, we will recapture the legacy of science, technology and innovation as core drivers of development—as well as inspire and support the next generation of development leaders."
Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the American people have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years. For more information about USAID's programs, please visit: www.usaid.gov.
Located in Needham, Mass., Olin College is an undergraduate engineering institution that has been exploring innovative approaches to engineering education since its founding in 1997. Olin is increasingly recognized as a leader in engineering education reform for its interdisciplinary, hands-on curriculum and distinctive learning culture.