Development collaboration 2.0

The aim of the Delft Global Initiative is to unite researchers, lecturers and students in order to actively contribute to solving global social issues. This is not development work, but ‘development collaboration 2.0’. The initiative was launched in late November.

“The objective of the Delft Global Initiative is to not only tackle global social issues, but to offer concrete solutions”, explains Dr Jennifer Kockx, Programme Manager and one of the initiators of the platform. “We’ll achieve this by combining expertise in the field of high-tech science within TU Delft, through intensive collaboration with local entrepreneurs and non-governmental organisations and by linking student projects to comprehensive research.” Most importantly, it’s not about one-sided development aid, Kockx emphasises: “We want to realise dramatic innovations together with talent from new and developing countries. To enter into partnerships that will also allow us to learn.” Obligatory monthly working lunches also allow TU Delft researchers to stay up to date on each other’s work, as well as learn from each other’s experiences. Kockx: “A TU Delft civil engineer was working on a project in Mozambique, completely unaware that an urban planner – also from TU Delft – was working a couple of miles away. Even though their work overlaps!”

TU Delft is the first Dutch university to offer such an initiative, after Kockx and her colleagues drew inspiration from the Aalto Global Impact project in Helsinki. The Delft Global Initiative is a ten-year programme and, for the time being, the first five years are being financed by the Executive Board. In three years’ time, the network should be able to fully support itself.
The platform has already allocated seven doctoral tracks, the so-called Delft Global Fellowships. These include a project headed by Dr Jelena Popovic (Electrical Sustainable Energy) that uses new technology to offer affordable solar energy to low-income families in South Africa. “You need to completely adjust your way of thinking in order to develop technology for a developing country”, Popovic explains. “Now cost is all of a sudden my main priority.” Together with Dr Amir Zadpoor, Gerwin Smit and Dr Dick Plettenburg (Biomechanical Engineering), professor Paul Breedveld – co-founder of the Delft Global Initiative – wants to use a smartphone app to automate the design process of prostheses, while molecular biophysicist professor Cees Dekker is using his expertise to develop a DIY test for people who suspect that they are suffering from a tropical disease.

“We have a total of 20 Fellowships to award”, Kockx explains. Everyone is welcome to apply. “So long as the research tackles global challenges facing people, and has local impact. We can really make a difference.”

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