Development Impact Lab
The Blum Center’s leadership in developing innovative and practical solutions for global problems has been recognized with a $20 million award from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Science and technology can drive major breakthroughs in international development, but social and economic barriers such as market failures and weak institutions sometimes prevent potentially transformative innovations from reaching the world’s poor. The Development Impact Lab (DIL) will bring together world-class science, engineering, and economics to change the way new technologies for development are designed, evaluated, and scaled in the developing world. DIL’s legacy will include a new inter-disciplinary field of “Development Engineering” that formalizes the use of advanced science and technology to understand and address development problems.
DIL will build on pioneering work by UC Berkeley’s Blum Center for Developing Economies, which—together with the UC-wide Center for Effective Global Action—has strategically combined social science expertise with engineering, natural sciences, and public health to generate comprehensive, demand-driven solutions to development challenges. The DIL approach draws on innovative methods to identify, refine, rigorously evaluate, and scale new solutions, with a focus on long-term sustainability and affordability. It will build a pipeline of development innovations, paying careful attention to local context and the specific nature of social and economic challenges in different regions. In tandem, DIL will train a new generation of development practitioners and innovators drawn from all academic disciplines by building on the Blum Center’s undergraduate minor in Global Poverty and Practice—the largest minor on the Berkeley campus. DIL will also integrate and expand the BigIdeas@Berkeley competition, which provides funding, mentorship, and encouragement to promising student-led initiatives at the product development, testing, and scaling phases. These elements, together with the launch of a new academic field of “Development Engineering,” will engage a rich ecosystem of scientists, engineers, and economists working together on global development issues.
A managed portfolio of development solutions, drawing on new technological breakthroughs, will be shepherded through the pipeline of research, field evaluation, translation, and scale-up.
A rich network of international partners will ensure that innovations are sourced, refined, tested, and scaled through collaboration between experts in the U.S. and in developing economies.
A new field of Development Engineering (DevEng) will be launched, including a curriculum and minor for PhD students, a peer-reviewed Journal of Development Engineering, and fellowships to support research and education.
To create a rich exchange of knowledge and learning within and beyond the USAID Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), DIL will produce a series of “State of the Science” conferences that will disseminate findings and expand collaborations.