MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship Program

The MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship offers one year of support to social entrepreneurs bringing hardware-based, poverty-alleviating products and services to market at scale. Alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the International Development Design Summit are eligible to apply. Scale-Ups Fellows receive a $20,000 grant, tailored mentorship, skills-building, and networking opportunities.

Fellows enter the program with a compelling proof-of-concept, and a few to thousands of units tested or sold. During the 12-month fellowship, entrepreneurs work to retire risk in technical feasibility and market viability, thereby positioning their ventures for investment, partnership, and growth. Since the fellowship program’s launch in 2012, Scale-Ups has sponsored 27 fellows working on four continents in sectors including agriculture, energy, water, healthcare, housing, mobility and recycling. Applications for 2017 are due May 5th. 



Practical Education Network - Teacher training workshops that build the capacity of STEM teachers - Ghana

Issue: There are 250 million children who are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school.
Solution: The Practical Education Network (PEN) offers a series of workshops in which STEM teachers learn, design, and share hands-on activities which complement the national curriculum. PEN’s approach blends constructivist learning with locally-available materials, empowering Ghanaian STEM teachers to teach experientially.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Heather holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During her time in graduate school and at D-Lab, she developed a passion for STEM education and indigenous innovation. She co-founded and co-instructed D-Lab: Education in addition to mentoring students from various other D-Lab classes.


Rise Legs - A lightweight, cane-based, ecofriendly prosthetic leg - India

Issue: Prosthetic legs currently on the Indian market are either free and inefficient, or efficient, but far too costly for many users. 
Solution: Rise Legs prosthetics are up to four times lighter than simliarly priced products, and are fabricated using cane from local forests, providing a sustainable stream of income to local cane artisans. Each leg is assembled by local technicians and distributed in partnership with established programs and organizations that focus their work on people living with disabilities. 
Scale-Ups Fellow: Arun Cherian quit his PhD in Mechanical engineering at Purdue University, to develop Rise Legs. Previously, he had been a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley developing wearable exoskeletal suits to help the paralyzed people walk. He holds an MS in mechanical engineering from Columbia University and a BS in mechanical engineering from Anna University.

uLink - An end-to-end platform to develop and manage low-cost modular microgrids in off-grid areas - India

Issue: The adverse health, education, and economic impact of living without access to electricity. 
Solution: Smaller than a shoebox, powered by their smart energy operating system and powerful cloud management software, uLink is the all-in-one, plug and play solution for Energy Service Providers (ESPs). uLink hardware is a smart Power Management Unit (PMU) that serves as the building block of a modular microgrid, where generating households can sell electricity to consuming households in the vicinity.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Wardah Inam has a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT with a research focus on system level design of uLink technology to best serve the off-grid market. For the past seven years, she has been working on developing energy efficient technologies for renewable energy deployment. She is passionate about building products that can improve peoples lives. 


Essmart - Building a rechargeable headlamp for rural Indian farmers - India

Issue: Many south Indian farming tasks require the use of both hands in low-light settings, making those tasks unsafe, inconvenient or inefficient.
Solution: Essmart is developing an affordable, bright, rechargeable headlamp to be sold with a warranty. This will entail design and development of the Essmart headlamp prototype, user testing and adoption studies, and eventually, rollout of the product to the shops in Essmart's growing network. 
Scale-Ups Fellow: Jackie has an SB in mechanical engineering from Harvard and an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development from the University of Cambridge. She has been featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, as an Echoing Green Fellow, and as a Cartier Women's Initiative Awards Laureate for her work with Essmart.



AEST Agricultural Waste Charcoal - A healthy, sustainable, and affordable cooking fuel - Uganda

Issue: In Uganda, 97 percent of the population relies on firewood and wood charcoal that is detrimental to health, the economy, and the environment.
Solution: AEST employs women and young people to recycle groundnut husks into smokeless charcoal briquettes: a clean and affordable source of fuel for cooking and heating at the household level in urban Uganda. This initiative not only provides clean fuel and new jobs, but also security to women and girls who before had to walk long distances to find firewood.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Betty Ikalany has more than 10 years of experience working with poor communities in East Africa. A long-standing MIT D-Lab collaborator, she holds a bachelor's degree in social work and social administration from Makerere University in Uganda and a master's degree in development studies from the International Institute of Social Studies in the Hague, Netherlands. She is also an IDIN Network member, having participated in IDDS Tanzania in 2014.  


GREENPATH FOOD - GreenPath Nucleus Farming Platform System - Ethiopia

Issue: Nearly 80 million Ethiopian farmers not using their land to full potential due to poor agronomic practices and lack of market access.
Solution: Farmer-support platforms that will be set up in the midst of farming communities and house the technologies and expertise needed for local smallholder farmers to transition to farming using high-yield sustainable agriculture techniques known as permaculture. 
Scale-Ups Fellow: Sid holds a Bachelor’s in Economics from the London School of Economics and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Most recently, he was a Program Manager at Ethiopia’s Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), which supports the country’s 70 million farmers. Previously, Sid was a McKinsey Global Institute Fellow and a consultant at McKinsey in London.


MECHANIZED MULTICROP THRESHER - A portable, mechanized threshing machine for Tanzanian crops - Tanzania

Issue: Tanzanian smallholder farmers in need of affordable processing equipment.
Solution: An engine-powered multicrop thresher (MCT) that can thresh the crops most common in the developing world (rice, maize, wheat, sorghum, barley). The MCT improves upon traditional methods by eliminating the need for toilsome labor and greatly decreasing the time required to thresh from three hours to just 10 minutes per sack of rice.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Elliot has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, where he took multiple D-Lab classes. On a D-Lab trip to Tanzania, he worked on an early version of the multicrop thresher. He attended the International Development Design Summit in Tanzania, where he now lives and works.



POUPACERTO - Mobile application to encourage saving - Brazil

Issue: More than 80 percent of Brazilians without clear control over their finances.
Solution: A free mobile app that uses behavior change principles and gamification to make saving achievable and fun.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Originally from Peru, Julio studied economics at the Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola and received a bachelor's degree in applied science from Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas. Following work as a market analyst and as a consultant to the World Bank, Julio co-founded PoupaCerto in 2013 in Brazil, where he now lives and works.


SAATHI PADS - Eco-friendly sanitary pad - India

Issue: Two-hundred million women living in rural India without access to affordable sanitary protection.
Solution: A small-scale manufacturing process to produce affordable sanitary protection from waste banana tree fiber. These pads will be manufactured and sold by local women. Rural women sell the pads door-to-door, in order to provide customers with in-person health education opportunities.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Kristin, co-founder and chief executive officer of Saathi, holds a S.B. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. At Saathi she enables women to become entrepreneurs and to learn about sustainable products. Prior to co-founding Saathi, Kristin worked as a Hardware Engineer in the US and a year working with a local community in Uttarakhand, India. 




SEED JARNA PUMP - A lightweight fuel-efficient irrigation pump - India

Issue: 13.7 million smallholder farmers in Maharashtra, India need a lightweight, portable, and fuel-efficient diesel run irrigation pump to supplement or to replace their existing irrigation solution.
Solution: SEED, LLC. matched the most efficient centrifugal impeller to pump water from 30 feet in the ground to the most efficient performing speed of the lightest diesel engine available. The pump, made entirely from aluminum weighs in at only 35kg and at 3hp consumes fuel at ~0.70 L/hr.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Mitesh is an engineer, has an MBA from Colorado State University, and attended the International Development Design Summit in 2010. He founded SEED in 2009 and moved to India in 2010 to set up an operational team and part manufacturing of the pump.


ZASAKA - Agricultural technologies & services - Zambia

Issue: For the 3.4 million smallholder farmers in Zambia, crop losses are greater than 17 percent and compounded by the adverse health effects associated with current methods of storage.
Solution: Zasaka builds farmer-led value chains to introduce life-altering technologies and services to farmers at the margin of subsistence. Their first technology and service package virtually eliminates absolute and qualitative loss in postharvest storage.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Carl is an entrepreneur with deep roots in agriculture. In June 2014 he completed a Master of Sciences degree in International Agricultural Development at University of California Davis. He is an alumnus of the 2013 International Development Design Summit in Zambia.


GHONSLA - Effective insulation panels from recycled materials - Pakistan

Issue: Metal roofs contribute to extreme in-home temperature fluctuations in northern Pakistan, where households spend up to 30% of their disposable income on wood for heating, resulting in high levels of indoor air pollution and deforestation. 
Solution: Ghonsla provides sustainable, effective, and economical insulation to underserved markets in Pakistan. Ghonsla’s 2’x2’ insulation panels are made from recycled paper and board and can be retrofitted onto existing roofs and interior walls. 
Scale-Ups Fellow: Zehra Ali holds a SB in Mechanical Engineering and an SM in Technology and Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was raised in Pakistan and founded Ghonsla (which means “nest” in Urdu) in order to address complex problems related to housing, energy, and the environment.



STG INTERNATIONAL - Mini-grid power stations for rural electrification - Lesotho and Tanzania

Issue: Nearly 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to reliable, modern sources of energy. Lack of reliable energy significantly impacts the quality and availability of education and health care, especially in rural areas.
Solution: STG International provides a complete technology and service model for low-cost micro-grids that provide rural households, health centers, and schools with access to affordable and sustainable energy.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Matthew Orosz is a founder of STG International and a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2012. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer, a Fulbright Fellow, and an Echoing Green Fellow.



PROTOPRINT - Converting waste plastic into 3D printer filament - India

Issue: An estimated 2 million waste pickers in India (and more than 15 million worldwide) suffer from economic marginalization and social stigma, despite their important work of processing waste plastics.
Solution: Protoprint provides affordable access to machinery which enables waste pickers to convert collected HDPE plastics into eco-friendly and price-competitive 3D printer filament, leveraging growing demand to empower waste pickers through significantly higher earnings.
Scale-Ups Fellow: Sidhant Pai will graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014 after studying Environmental Engineering and Developmental Economics. He is a 2014 Echoing Green finalist and a winner of the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge.




ZIMBAAn affordable chlorine doser for community water sources - India 

Issue: Both centralized and household-level approaches to water treatment have often failed to provide safe drinking water to people around the world.
Solution: Zimba automatically mixes chlorine into water in the correct proportions, regardless of the water flow rate. The device requires no behavior-change from users and can be fitted to an existing water source, such as a well hand-pump, the tap of a rainwater harvesting cistern, or the faucet of a piped water system. 
Scale-Ups fellow: Suprio Das left a 20-year career as corporate electrical engineer to found numerous ventures focused on the needs of the very poor. Suprio is four-time attendee of IDDS.


CLEAN BIRTH KIT IN A PURSE - An affordable clean birth kit - India & expanding

Issue: Approximately one million mothers and newborns die annually from infections linked to unhygienic birth practices.
Solution: JANMA: Clean Birth Kit in a Purse contains the essential tools required to ensure safe and sterile conditions at the time of childbirth. ayzh (eyes) has sold over 50,000 kits in India, Haiti, Laos, Afghanistan, and Africa, with demand from other countries continuing to grow.
Scale-Ups fellow: Zubaida Bai is a three-time participant at IDDS. She holds a Master’s degree in Engineering (product development and design) from Dalarna University, Sweden, and an MBA from Colorado State University.


TINYPIPES Cell-phone enabled solar panel - Philippines

Issue: Four-million near-grid households with home cellular connectivity who have started to incorporate electricity into their lives could benefit from uniquely appropriate energy solutions.
Solution: tinyPipes is an off-grid electrical utility installing solar panels that can be monitored and controlled over a cellular network. The panels can be connected to and charge a user’s 12V car battery. Users pre-pay for energy via mobile money or in cash until the panel is paid for.
Scale-Ups fellow: Alex Hornstein holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT. Since graduating he has focused on solar energy and is currently living in China and the Philippines.


WOUND-PUMP - Simplified negative pressure wound therapy (NWPT) device  - Multiple Markets 

Issue: The treatment of approximately 200 million open wounds daily, drains significant resources in all healthcare systems.
Solution: The WiCare Wound-Pump provides a means to offer NPWT around the world. This patent-pending technology was developed to meet global customer needs in all targeted markets and the functional parameters necessary for successful therapy.
Scale-Ups fellow: Danielle Zurovcik completed a PhD at MIT in Mechanical Engineering in 2012. While still a student, she founded WiCare to develop innovative medical devices that are clinically effective and affordable worldwide.



WECYCLERS - An incentive-based recycling venture - Nigeria

Issue: About 60 percent of the 12 million people living in the slums of Lagos do not have access to reliable municipal trash collection and are left to deal with waste disposal on their own. 
Solution: A fleet of low-cost cargo bicycles and an SMS-based incentives platform offering convenient household recycling services in densely populated, low-income neighborhoods. 
Scale-Ups fellow: Bilikiss holds an MBA from MIT. She worked at IBM for five years where she developed social networking software that served thousands of users at Fortune 500 companies. 


OTTOCLAVE An affordable "talking" sterilization system for medical instruments - Nepal & India

Issue: Up to one in three patients receiving treatment at remote clinics become infected from unsterilized medical instruments resulting in over 20 million preventable infections each year.
Solution: OttoClave’s innovative cycle monitor talks to users in their native language, standardizes training and provides continued education. OttoClave gives users confirmation of successful sterilization, a feature that was previously only available with high-end autoclaves. 
Scale-Ups fellow: Hallie Sue received degrees in mechanical engineering and management science from MIT. She is currently pursuing a PhD at INSEAD.


MORINGACONNECT - Connecting farmers to the global Moringa oil market - Ghana

Issue: There are an estimated 25,000 farmers in Ghana growing Moringa but little has been invested in Moringa oil extraction despite the high demand for the oil.
Solution: MoringaConnect sources organically cultivated seeds from smallholder farmers in Ghana to produce cold-pressed Moringa oil to formulators of hair and skincare products worldwide.
Scale-Ups fellow: Kwami Williams, originally from Ghana, holds an SB in Aerospace Engineering from MIT. Since graduating, he has devoted his life to developing MoringaConnect with cofounder Emily Cunningham.


GLOBAL CYCLE SOLUTIONS - An efficient, affordable thresher - Tanzania

Issue: In Tanzania, where over 70-percent of both the economy and the workforce rely upon small-scale agriculture, farmers are still using arduous and unsanitary traditional methods of threshing.
Solution: The MultiCrop Thresher is an affordable, high-impact multi-crop agricultural processing machine. The thresher is locally repairable, possibly locally manufactured, but, most important, at a price that makes is accessible to smallholder farmer in Tanzania.
Scale-Ups fellow: Jodi Wu holds an SB in Mechancial Engineering from MIT and Is CEO of Global Cycle Solutions based in Tanzania. She was a 2010 Echoing Green Fellow and 2011 TED Global Fellow.


AUGMENTED INFANT RESUSCITATOR - A device to monitor and provide feedback on use of resuscitation equipment - Uganda

Issue: At least one million babies die each year due to breathing trouble. And no reliable data exists to explain whether these babies die due to equipment malfunction, user error or some other underlying cause.
Solution: AIR is an add-on for existing resuscitation equipment and training. It monitors resuscitation performance, and provides feedback on technique. It allows trainees to learn by doing, rather than learn by seeing or reading. 
Scale-Ups fellow: Kevin holds a PhD in mechanical engineering from MIT. Kevin became involved in global health and development at a H@cking Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in October 2012 where he developed a prototype of the AIR in less than 24 hours. 


PORTATHERM An electricity-free typhoid & paratyphoid diagnostic system - Nepal

Issue: There are 27 million cases and over 200,000 deaths every year from typhoid and paratyphoid. Without a reliable electricity supply in rural areas, health facilities are unable to perform blood cultures for diagnosis.
Solution: PortaTherm combines a low-cost, electricity-free incubator, invented by MIT D-Lab's Amy Smith, and a simple-to-read, blood culture-based diagnostic test developed by Dr. Jason Andrews of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Scale-Ups fellow: Shawn holds an SB from MIT in Brain and Cognitive Sciences with a concentration in Science, Technology and Society. An aspiring physician, Shawn has a particular interest in the use of innovative, simple, low-cost technologies in rural, resource-limited settings.




SOLARCLAVE - A solar-powered autoclave for off-grid health clinics - Nicaragua

Issue: Fifty-percent of rural health clinics, serving three billion people operate without electricity. Without electricity, these clinics have no hope of sterilizing medical instruments adequately to safely treat wounds, for gynecological examinations, prenatal care, and emergency births.  
Solution: The Solarclave sterilizes medical instruments to the CDC standard using sunlight, and was designed using commonly available materials and requiring minimal technical expertise. 
Scale-Ups fellow: An economist turned designer, Anna is a researcher at the D-Lab affiliated Little Devices group, and is the instructor of D-Lab: Health. Anna has developed partnerships in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.


SOLAR WATER PURIFIER - A device indicating when solar water disinfection is complete - Zambia

Issue: Solar disinfection (SODIS) could be the lowest-cost household water treatment method, requiring only PET bottles and sunlight. However, it’s not possible to tell when the process is done.
Solution:The PotaVida monitor measures sunlight and shows the user when the water is disinfected and runs on solar power. The monitor will last for at least 5 years and costs less than $5 in large volumes.
Scale-Ups fellow: Jackie holds a PhD in Bioengineering and a certificate in Global Health from the University of Washington. She is an expert in bacterial pathogens and implementing engineering solutions that improve global health. 


LEVERAGED FREEDOM CHAIR An innovative lever-powered wheelchair for developing countries. - India, Haiti

Issue: There are 20 million people in need of an appropriate wheelchair - regular wheelchairs are designed for hospitals not the rough terrain of both urban and rural areas in developing countries.
Solution: LFC riders push on efficient levers and "shift gears" by sliding their hands up and down the levers. Riders can travel 80% faster and achieve 50% more torque for power than a regular wheelchair. And, unlike other wheelchairs, it is built from standard bicycle parts and can be easily maintained anywhere in the world.
Scale-Ups fellow: Tish holds an SB from MIT in mechanical engineering and a minor in applied international studies. She is currently CEO of Global Research Innovation & Technology which is bringing the LFC to market.