USAID Launches Program to Tap the Brainpower of University Students

November 19, 2012

The U.S. Agency for International Developing (USAID) is launching development labs at seven universities to harness their creative energy and generate ideas.

The new Higher Education Solutions Network will, among other activities, establish technology hubs, test ideas, and brainstorm for solutions to challenges in areas such as global health, food security, and chronic conflict.

Working under the agency’s Office of Science and Technology, the network was inaugurated last week during events at the National Press Club and National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. Speakers included USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and Google Vice President Megan Smith (pictured). At a reception on November 8, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed students and faculty of the winning universities.

“Having representatives of these seven universities, [and] focusing the ingenuity of your brightest people on these daunting challenges, is very reassuring to us because we know we cannot do the kind of work we try to do solely on building on the past,” Clinton said. “Incremental change is a necessary but not sufficient pathway to what we hope to accomplish. That is why Raj [Shah] and his team have put a special focus on science and technology.”

To establish these labs, USAID is providing $26 million in co-funding across the institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California–Berkeley, Michigan State University, Duke University, Texas A&M University, The College of William & Mary, and Makerere University in Uganda.

DAI is supporting USAID’s Office of Science and Technology in the launch of the Higher Education Solutions Network and is also supporting the Office’s Grand Challenges for Development program, which has received hundreds of ideas from around the world—and is helping fund the best—on ways to save lives at birth, get all children reading, and power agriculture through clean energy.

“We want to build on and expand all this progress and we especially want to expand our portfolio of partners in the private sector, in local NGOs, and, of course in the academic and research community,” Clinton said.

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