USAID Announces Development Innovation Ventures Program

Oct 08, 2010, 11:35 ET from U.S. Agency for International Development

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As a part of President Obama's commitment to increase investments and engagement in game-changing innovations, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced the launch of Development Innovation Ventures (DIV).



Through DIV, USAID seeks to work with a variety of partners to create innovative scalable solutions to core development challenges.  Borrowing from the private venture capital model, DIV will seek, through a competitive process to invest resources in promising high-risk, high-return projects that breakthrough innovations often require, but are often difficult to undertake using traditional Agency structures. DIV's goal is to identify and support innovations with a proven, cost-effective impact that can match the scale of microfinance—75 million end users worldwide.

Maura O'Neill, Chief Innovation Officer, and Michael Kremer, a world-renowned economist from Harvard University originally conceived the idea of DIV. Kremer will be joining USAID as the Scientific Director of the DIV and will help recruit new talent and ideas to the Agency.

"We know that great ideas and development breakthroughs come from all different places – a lab in a university, an indigenous person who has deep local knowledge, or a passionate entrepreneur," said O'Neill. "Often, it is a combination of different people and organizations working together in new ways to create a way to identify and grow innovative ideas. Our focus is on faster breakthroughs that scale to have global impact."

By bringing together diverse individuals from academia, the private sector and NGOs, USAID hopes to identify, develop, rigorously test, and ultimately scale up promising approaches to pressing development issues around the world. DIV will encourage advancement in all sectors that impact the ability of people in developing countries to live healthy and productive lives, from economic growth to agriculture to anti-corruption activities.

"Development Innovation Ventures will provide opportunity to incubate innovations intended for either the private or public sectors in developing countries." said Kremer. "Particularly for ideas that would be scaled by the public sector, a key feature of the DIV model is to complement risk taking by rigorous testing so as to identify cost effective solutions to development challenges."

USAID is excited to announce the first recipients of DIV funds which address a variety of issues to include improving rural solar access, creating an affordable fuel-cell powered bicycle and developing a new way to measure the effectiveness of a cellular SMS election monitoring platform in reducing election fraud in Afghanistan.

These development innovation grants are the first to be awarded. USAID plans to award grants throughout the year and more details on the grant recipients and how to apply can be found at:

The first eight grant recipients include:

  • Innovations for Poverty Action, A New Jersey Nonprofit Corp
  • Dimagi, Inc.          
  • Jhpiego Corporation      
  • SiGNa Chemistry, Inc.
  • Institute for Financial Management & Research (2 grants)                      
  • Lighting Rural Uganda with Solar
  • University of California, San Diego

For more information about USAID's programs, please visit:

The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years.

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SOURCE U.S. Agency for International Development