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.
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.
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 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
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:
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.