Essential Tech Center
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Sustainable development

The UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development 2030 set a specific agenda to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.” In the 17 specific areas that are targeted, we recognize that action in one area impacts the others, so to develop sustainably, you need to balance all.

According to the world poverty index, nearly 700 million people live in extreme poverty – that is less than $1.9 a day. This situation was exacerbated by COVID-19 and is projected to be further impacted by the war against Ukraine. With climate change hampering progress, we risk continued world poverty for a potentially lengthy period of time.

Our Sustainable Development division aims to reduce poverty by delivering technologies that can promote development in a way that can be sustained economically, functionally, socially and environmentally. In industrialized countries, technology has driven development. But in low- and middle-income contexts (LMICs), technologies frequently fail to bring substantive change. We identified four factors that consistently prevent technology from promoting development: lack of financial resources; lack of trained personnel; lack of quality infrastructure and harsh climates.

The approach we use is to identify specific unmet needs in LMICs, and consider these unmet needs as opportunities to enact change. We’ve recognized that for technologies to succeed in these contexts, we need to rethink and redesign. Designing solutions adapted to the constraints of those contexts, forces us to innovate: we need more affordable, simpler and more robust solutions which are environmentally sound. These characteristics are not only important for LMICs but also for industrialized contexts.

Successes coming out of our sustainable development division include the DiagnostiX integrated X-ray equipment (marketed today by Pristem SA) and the CURES program, a joint centre of competence in energy for health in Cameroon.

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
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Sustainable Development goalds