Super-Innovation-Heroes of Global Development

October 29, 2014 By Ashley E. (Chandler) Chang

Halloween is upon us, and, as always, superheroes rank in the top 3 most popular costumes for kids (and adults). In honor of the holiday, let’s take a moment to celebrate the many American innovators in global development whose “super powers” are helping people around the world with groundbreaking technologies and cool new foreign assistance tools.

Here are three Super-Innovation-Heroes dedicated to making the world a better, safer place year-round.

  1. THE HOMESTOVE: Eliminating chronic exposure to smoke from traditional cooking fires, responsible for four million deaths per year


This wood-burning stove reduces toxic smoke emissions by 90 percent and decreases the amount of firewood used by 50 percent, which is “nearly 10 times more than other available improved cook stoves.” Developed and manufactured by Brooklyn-based BioLite, the HomeStove also generates electricity to charge cell phones and power up LED lights. Since winning USAID’s venture capitalist-inspired competition – Development Innovation Ventures – last year, thousands of HomeStoves have been distributed and sold across India, Ghana, and Uganda. And it’s just the start. With nearly half the planet still cooking with open fires, this is an opportunity to ‘do well by doing good’ on a global scale.

  1. LILYPAD: Improving access to clean drinking water, which over one billion people lack worldwide


This device may look like a gigantic teabag, but it’s is actually a patented “photochemical water treatment product.” As it floats on ponds and streams, the LilyPad uses sunlight to kill harmful bacteria and remove dangerous metals from the water.  Last month, Beaverton, Oregon-based Puralytics won the inaugural round of Securing Water for Food, a Grand Challenge co-sponsored by USAID and the Governments of Sweden and The Netherlands, and got the chance to “scale-up adoption” of its reusable technology in Mexico. Armed with the LilyPad’s purifying power, smallholder farmers will soon have access to clean water and the ability to grow crops free from dangerous E. Coli bacteria and other contaminants.

  1. BILI-HUT: Protecting newborns from neonatal jaundice, a disease responsible for 30 percent of newborn deaths in developing countries.


While the solution to jaundice is straightforward (phototherapy), the Bili-Hut™ is a revolutionary portable device created to help “wherever there is a baby in need.”  If diagnosed early, nearly 100 percent of newborns can be cured, but traditional phototherapy methods require a significant amount of electricity and are rarely available in rural communities in the developing world. Coming in at just 3-lbs and only requiring a 12V battery, the Bili-Hut won the Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge this summer. With the seed grant from this global competition, co-sponsored by USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Canadian, Norwegian, and UK Governments, the Massachusetts-based Little Sparrows Technologies is about to begin testing the device in India, with the hope of helping newborns all over the world someday soon.