Side Event on High Tech for Humanitarian Aid: EU Industry Day

February 23, 2018   |   Brussels, Belgium

Download Agenda

Venue: Covent Garden (16 Place Rogier, 1210 Brussels), ERC Nowotny Auditorium (25th floor)

Co-organised by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) and Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO)


Advanced technologies are largely inaccessible and unaffordable to people and businesses in low-income countries as well as to important segments of the European society. It is however possible to develop high-quality, affordable solutions and products based on key enabling technologies, with limited resources, through a frugal innovation approach. Frugal innovation is an inclusive approach to problem-solving which seeks to get more value from fewer resources, by using creativity at every stage of the innovation process. It aims to reach out to a customer base that might otherwise have never been reached by that product or service. It can be a first step to market creation and make a relevant contribution to socially inclusive development and sustainability. Specifically, it can offer opportunities to SMEs to develop new technology-based products and services that are accessible and suitable to a large number of people on international markets.

The increasing number of humanitarian crises and disasters that the world is facing calls for doing more, for more people, more effectively and at a lower cost. Introducing more cost-effective technology-based solutions can help enhance humanitarian response. Recent examples of frugal application of advanced technologies in humanitarian contexts include improved shelters with advanced materials; better portable water filtration and purification systems based on nano-technology catalysts; off-grid energy supplied through organic photovoltaics, or customised humanitarian supplies thanks to 3D printing technology.

Addressing humanitarian challenges requires a more effective involvement of a wider variety of actors, notably the private sector and the research and innovation communities. This is why, in November 2017, the European Commission launched a Prize on Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian Aid under the Horizon 2020 Programme. The prize will support the development of proven, innovative humanitarian solutions with greater cost-effectiveness, based on the frugal application of advanced technologies. The prize aims to induce increased collaboration between humanitarian actors, the private sector and research and innovation communities. Five prizes, each worth EUR 1 million, will be awarded in the following categories: a) shelter and related assistance; b) water, sanitation and hygiene; c) energy; d) health and medical care; and e) open category. 

For more information please see: EIC website and rules of the contest.

Event Objectives

  1. Raise awareness of the potential of frugal application of advanced technologies in low-income countries;
  2. Identify and discuss humanitarian challenges that could be addressed through the frugal application of advanced technologies
  3. Discuss business opportunities for the private sector, notably SMEs, stemming from the frugal application of advanced technologies in the humanitarian field
  4. Provide a forum for humanitarian innovators to meet, exchange and discuss related challenges
  5. Discuss how to best support partnerships between humanitarian actors and technology developers in the context of the Prize on Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian Ai

Event structure

The event will be a roundtable discussion. Participants will include representatives of:

a) Corporations developing advanced technologies and materials,

b) Research and scientific centres conducting applied research in this domain, and

c) Humanitarian organisations with strong innovation capacities.

Download Agenda