Essential Tech Centre

Harnessing science and technology to drive sustainable development, humanitarian action and peace

Our essential story

Harnessing science and technology to drive sustainable development, humanitarian action and peace

The EPFL EssentialTech Centre develops sustainable and scalable solutions to address unmet needs, notably in low-income and vulnerable contexts. Our work is aligned with the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Working from concept definition to technology transfer, our core activities include systems engineering, contextual guidance and developing sustainable business models for the projects. We also provide expertise to international organizations and partnership initiatives in our focus areas of action.

The unique approach pioneered by the Centre rests on three pillars: cooperation with stakeholders in areas affected by poverty and crisis, interdisciplinarity and entrepreneurship.

What do our partners think of us? Testimonials

A world-class university

Part of EPFL - Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne

EssentialTech is part of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL - Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne). one of the world's top institutions in science and technology. It is ranked 6th in Europe and 14th in world in the QS World university ranking.

EssentialTech's position at the heart of EPFL ensures access to top minds and the most advanced test laboratories and technology.

There are about 500 laboratories and research groups at EPFL across many disciplines in sciences and engineering. Some 500 startups (including ones out of EssentialTech) have grown out of EPFL research and development since 1994. In addition to R&D in our own lab on campus. EssentialTech collaborates extensively with professors, researchers and labs across the university. Beyond the university, we likewise enjoy collaborations and partnerships with academi, governmental and non-governmental organizations around the world.

3 areas of action

Sustainable development, humanitarian action, peace promotion

EssentialTech’s three divisions are built along the lines of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace (HDP) triple nexus described by the United Nations as capturing the interlinkages between these sectors.

The nexus is based on the recognition that perennial and specific problems in many countries and communities can be traced to a combination of three factors: Poverty, inequality and underdevelopment; humanitarian crises; and armed conflicts and violence. While the proportion of one factor or another may differ from one community or another and over time, sustainably addressing the roots of the issues has to respect their interconnectedness. When you aim to address an issue in one sector, you will drive change (for good or bad) in the other two.

In our activities, we therefore consider the impact on all three, not just the immediate issue. The environmental impact of any intervention is also a prime consideration, as no improvement to people’s lives is sustainable over time if it harms our natural world.


Our sustainable development division aims to impact poverty by delivering technologies that can promote development in a way that can be sustained economically, functionally and environmentally. More


Our humanitarian action division works with global partners to research and implement initiatives to improve humanitarian responses. We aim to save lives, improve living conditions, protect human rights, restore dignity and help people back to normal lives. More


Our peace promotion activities involve designing, developing and delivering projects and initiatives at the intersection of technology and peace, notably through the concept of PeaceTech.  More

8 intervention targets

We have identified eight intervention targets where we can bring “essential technologies” to play an important role in all three dimensions of the triple nexus:

Food & agriculture
Water & Sanitation
Medical equipment
Information & communications


Our technology development projects follow a unique methodology pioneered by us. It begins in the academic and research environment then is transferred to the private sector for implementation at scale.

Successful transfers

Inexpensive yet high-quality, diagnostic X-ray machine robust enough for harsh climates. An all-in-one system, it is easy to use and facilitates remote radiology. Marketed by Pristem SA
Transparent medical face mask made with patented technology that protects from pathogens while enabling easy breathing and improved communication. Marketed by HMCare.
Dynamic, affordable prosthetic limbs for low-resource, high-need settings, marketed by Rehab’Impulse, an ICRC social business.
Personal Protective Equipment designed primarily for Ebola field use. One-piece suit offers increased comfort with filtration and ventilation for cooling. Cleanable and reusable for reduced logistics and waste. Marketed by SFTech, currently in field testing with MSF.
EssentialTech Centre

essentialtech [at]
+41 21 693 60 68
Mailing address:
Station 10
1015 Lausanne (Switzerland)
Physical address:
EPFL Lausanne Campus
CM 2-303
Meet our team
Sustainable Development goalds