Indian Researchers Selected to Develop Next Generation Toilets

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Indian and global researchers gather at “Reinvent the Toilet Fair: India” to discuss how to bring safe sanitation to the 2.5 billion people who lack access 

New Delhi, March 22, 2014—Six Indian innovators were selected today to contribute to the development of sanitation solutions as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: India. From a pool of 108 applications, these projects were chosen following an extensive, rigorous selection process by an expert committee.

The “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: India” is a collaborative effort of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India; Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), A Government of India Enterprise; and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund Indian researchers to develop innovative, safe and affordable sanitation technologies. This program is an India-specific program modeled on the Gates Foundation’s global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. The DBT and the Gates Foundation invested a combined US$2 million, equally split, to support Indian investigators to drive research, development, and production of “next-generation toilets.”

The grants were announced today by Prof. K. Vijay Raghavan, Secretary DBT & Chairman, BIRAC at the “Reinvent the Toilet Fair: India”, an event held in New Delhi that showcased innovative products and approaches that aim to bring safe, affordable and sustainable sanitation to those who need it most.

Co-hosted by the DBT and the Gates Foundation, the fair included more than 45 exhibitors representing 15 nations and featured projects to stimulate discussion among a diverse group of stakeholders working to improve global sanitation. These include efforts to create toilets that are not connected to water, sewer or electricity; improve the collection, treatment and disposal of human waste; address behavior change; and raise awareness of this critical issue for governments, stakeholders and local communities.

The fair was an opportunity to recognize India’s leadership and commitment to improving child health and fostering innovative solutions to persistent development challenges. It also was an opportunity to hasten manufacturing opportunities in India of existing sanitation products.

“Effective and comprehensive sanitation seems an impossible dream for India,” said Professor K. Vijay Raghavan. “Yet today we see a congruence of new and applicable science and technology, its affordability, and sustainable implementation. This congruence is a great opportunity which we cannot afford to let slip. By implementing effective solutions in each kind of social context, big problems can be dealt with in small units and be catalysts for scaling up. By working together to hit big barriers at the right place and the right way, they can crumble and the impossible can become real.”

Also announced today at the fair, the Department of Science and Technology for the Republic of South Africa is committing ZAR 30 million to field test technologies developed as part of the Gates Foundation’s global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge in rural communities and schools. The foundation is contributing US $1 million to support this testing.

“By applying creative thinking and new approaches to sanitation challenges, we can improve people’s lives. And we have no doubt that these new partnerships with India and South Africa will help us achieve this,” said Brian Arbogast, director of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We believe that with governmental leadership, new business models and innovation, we can dramatically increase the progress made in tackling this global sanitation crisis.”

The fair was an opportunity for the16 global Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (RTTC) grantees, funded by the Gates Foundation, to exhibit progress and demonstrate project prototypes.

“We are impressed by the progress the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge grantees have made,” said Arbogast. “Our goal is to fund the development of complete solutions – solutions that are affordable, that work, and that people want to use. Our grantees have been working on aggressive timelines and we are very encouraged by the progress of these grantees have made since the first fair in August 2012.”

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About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people live healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) program works to develop tools and technologies that can lead to sustainable and substantial improvements in sanitation in the developing world.

About Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India

The India Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology has given a new impetus to the development of the field of modern biology and biotechnology in India since its establishment in 1986. The department promotes and accelerates the pace of development of biotechnology in the country by providing support for Indian universities, research organizations, infrastructure establishment, bioclusters and the promotion of public-private partnerships. The department has made significant achievements in the growth and application of biotechnology in the broad areas of agriculture, health care, animal sciences, environment and industry, with the goal of benefitting society and the environment. India is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in the development of new sustainable sanitation solutions. The department is committed to partner with all the relevant Government of India ministries to use science and technology to find impactful solutions.

About Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC)

Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a Section 25 ‘Not-for-Profit Company’ of Government of India, that has been set up as Department of Biotechnology’s interface agency, which serves as a single window for the emerging biotech industries. As a Government of India enterprise, it provides support to catalyse the transformation of the emerging Indian bio-economy. The primary focus of BIRAC is to play a catalytic role in fashioning, building and scaling a true Indian bio-economy that puts biotechnology at the centre stage of the growth story of India and which addresses the multitudes of challenges that the country faces and helps in delivering solutions that are innovative and affordable. One of the major focus of BIRAC’s is to reduce the risk inherent in the innovation pipeline from the origination of an ‘idea’ and its journey through several hurdles, be it at prototype or at pilot and scale up stages, to become a successful commercialized product.

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