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

Our story

The EPFL EssentialTech Centre harnesses science and technology to drive sustainable development, humanitarian action and peace.

We develop sustainable and scalable solutions to address unmet needs, notably in lowincome and vulnerable contexts. 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.

Latest news

New Swiss Alliance for Capacity-building in PeaceTech

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10+10

In 2022, EssentialTech is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

The unique approach developed and perfectioned in our first 10 years can create sustainable impact at scale, helping transform the lives of people in low-income and vulnerable contexts. We count several success stories including technology transfers.

We are celebrating this milestone by looking forward – where and how can we have the greatest impact in the next 10 years?

10+10 involves a number of events and initiatives over the year to inject our current and future activities with fresh perspectives, drive thought leadership and secure our position within the global efforts to make the world a better place. Details coming soon!

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3 sectors

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.

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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

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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

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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 action areas

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

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Food & agriculture
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Water & Sanitation
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Construction
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Transportation
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Pharmaceuticals
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Medical equipment
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Energy
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Information & communications
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Methodology

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

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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
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Transparent medical face mask made with patented technology that protects from pathogens while enabling easy breathing and improved communication. Marketed by HMCare.
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Dynamic, affordable prosthetic limbs for low-resource, high-need settings, marketed by Rehab’Impulse, an ICRC social business.
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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.

MOOCs & Courses

MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)

Technology Innovation for Sustainable Development

Learn how to use technology innovation as a tool to fight poverty and enable sustainable development. 

More info

EPFL Course

Development engineering / ENV-470 / 4 credits

This course teaches the fundamentals of technologies for development (Development Engineering) to design, pilot, and evaluate appropriate, affordable and robust technologies to address sustainable development challenges (e.g. poverty, environmental degradation) in emerging and developing countries.

More info

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EssentialTech Centre

essentialtech [at] epfl.ch
+41 21 693 60 61
Mailing address:
EPFL-ENT-R-EssentialTech
Station 10
1015 Lausanne (Switzerland)
Physical address:
EPFL Lausanne Campus
CM 2-303
Meet our team
Sustainable Development goalds