New institute focuses on problems in developing nations

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory announced Wednesday the launch of a new institute that will focus on problems faced by developing countries, including difficulties like unsafe drinking water and limited access to fuel sources.

The new Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies is still in the process of trying to find funding for future projects that it would like to pursue, according to Allan Chen, leader of the communications office at the environmental energy technologies division of the lab.

“We’re trying to identify a diverse set of funding, ranging from government agencies and the private sector and NGOs,” Chen said.

The institute is currently under the temporary leadership of interim director Shashi Buluswar, a UC Berkeley lecturer of international development. It is also receiving input from Ashok Gadgil, a campus professor of civil and environmental engineering who has previously led several projects to aid impoverished people in developing countries.

The institute plans to pursue a dozen technologies at any given moment when working at its full capacity. How these projects and the institute itself will be staffed depend on the projects that are pursued, expanding or contracting the staff where needed, Chen said.

Berkeley Lab had already undertaken two large projects concerning poverty in developing nations before launching the new institute, both of which were created under the guidance of Gadgil.

The first undertaking was a more fuel-efficient cook stove that has benefited over 100,000 people in Darfur, and the second is a technological advancement that allows water to be cheaply sanitized using ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet technology has been licensed to a private company that now sells clean water to five million people, according to a Wednesday press release.

These efforts to alleviate problems encountered in developing nations are part of a national agenda recognized by the White House.

“The Institute will create a pipeline for demand-driven technologies by matching Berkeley Lab’s advanced research capabilities in affordable, low-carbon solutions with the needs of developing countries,” states a White House press release.