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The Next Grand Challenge in India: Reinvent the Toilet 

Indian Ministry of Science and Technology and the Bill & MelindaGates Foundation to invest US$2 million to support innovative projects todevelop a “Next Generation Toilet”

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
206-709-3400

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
+1-206-709-3400

October 3, 2013, DELHI – The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Government of India and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with India’s Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) launched a call for proposals as part of Grand Challenges India to reinvent the toilet. The Department of Biotechnology and the Gates Foundation will each invest US$1 million to support Indian investigators to drive research, development, and production of the “next generation toilet.” 

Today, 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to safe sanitation, causing serious health problems, and in some cases, death.  Food and water tainted with fecal matter result in 1.5 million child deaths every year. Most of these deaths could be prevented with the introduction of improved sanitation, along with safe drinking water and increased hygiene.

“Open defecation and poor sanitation are India’s shame,” said Dr. K VijayRaghavan, secretary of the the Department of Biotechnology. “Central and state governments, alongside NGO partners, have been addressing these issues but new technologies can, perhaps, bring new dimensions to result in scalable solutions for India. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BIRAC and the DBT are partners in this adventure to reinvent the toilet and are fully committed seeking out the best in science and technology for creating a hygienic, clean and safe environment in India.”

 In 2011, the Gates Foundation launched the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge – a program created to design toilets that capture and process human waste without piped water, sewer or electrical connections, and transform waste into useful resources, such as energy and water, at an affordable price. This India toilet challenge is the second effort targeted to a specific country and is a testament to the research and development capabilities in India.

The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge is designed to spur innovation and bring creative thinking to solve the problem of dealing human waste. To date, the Gates Foundation has funded 16 research institutions across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America as part of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.

Grand Challenges India is a partnership that was launched earlier this year by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of India, its Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and Gates Foundation to support co-funded projects to harness Indian innovation and research, and direct scientific discovery to develop affordable, sustainable solutions that improve health in India and around the world. As part of this partnership, the Achieving Healthy Growth through Agriculture and Nutrition program was launched earlier this year which seeks to target the relationship between agriculture, nutrition, and health to reduce the high incidence of low birth weight and early stunting among Indian infants. 

The Gates Foundation is also accepting applications for Grand Challenges Explorations, a ground-breaking grant program encouraging bold approaches aimed at improving the lives of the world’s poorest people. The simple, online, two-page application is open to creative thinkers from any discipline or any organization.

"We continue to push for a regular stream of fresh ideas to help overcome persistent health and development challenges,” said Chris Wilson, Director of Global Health Discovery & Translational Sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  “Innovative thinking fuels the progress needed to overcome obstacles the world faces to pull people out of poverty.”

To learn more about the topics in this round of Grand Challenges Explorations, visit www.grandchallenges.org. Proposals are being accepted through November 12, 2013.

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