DIL State of the Lab Winter 2014-2015 - Page 8

TECHCON 2014 UNIVERSITY INNOVATORS TRANSCEND ACADEMIC SILOS TO PRESENT CUTTING-EDGE COLLABORATIONS FOR GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT By U.S. Agency for International Development Powered by the idea that science and technology together with academic curiosity can help find transformative solutions to development challenges, over 350 student innovators, faculty researchers, development experts, investors, and thought leaders met November 8 - November 10 in the Bay Area for the Higher Education Solutions Network’s TechCon 2014. TechCon 2014 was the second annual meeting of the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a program launched in 2012 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and located in USAID’s new U.S. Global Development Lab. Through HESN, USAID has created a network of eight Development Labs that harness the ingenuity and passion of university students, researchers, and faculty to incubate and develop new science and tech-based solutions to global challenges in areas such as food security, health, poverty, conflict, and climate change. partnership—one that stretches from California to Massachusetts, from Texas to Uganda, united by a single purpose: to mobilize the energy and ingenuity of a new generation of students, inventors, and entrepreneurs—and harness the power of science, technology, and innovation to deliver transformational results in development. These efforts are ensuring that hungry children have nutritious meals; that rural entrepreneurs have access to power; and that smallholder farmers have strong, resilient harvests,” said Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator. The three-day summit, themed “Connecting to Accelerate Global Development,” featured an Innovation Marketplace where young innovators showcased their work, a “Shark Tank” styled pitch competition, and keynotes that both challenged and inspired attendees to identify new approaches and solutions to the development challenges we face. The annual meeting also served to further strengthen and cultivate this emerging global network of solvers, all of whom are committed to changing development. Ticora Jones, HESN Division Chief said, “Bridging the divide between invention and global impact is one of the most challenging issues of our time. It’s like running a marathon, while trying to combine strangers and friends to run with you along the way. Connecting individuals and communities with diverse viewpoints, resources, and skills is incredibly hard, but absolutely essential to cross the finish line.” HESN’s eight university-led Development Labs regularly manage projects in collaborations with networks that include other universities, innovators, investors, and institutions in developing countries. Each Development Lab has a distinct focus, ranging from food security to global health. Jordan Kellerstrass (at front), a PhD student in Computer Science, provides a demonstration of the Mezuri, a hardware and software system for end-to-end management of data from development interventions. (Photo courtesy of Noah Berger) “This Network represents something new and especially excitin