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Medical technology for Nicaragua, low-cost wireless connectivity for Ecuador, and better access to nutritious food and a steady income for poor farmers in Haiti are among projects to be funded by grants from the Inter-American Development Bank.

The awards are part of the "Innovation for Inclusive Development" programme, which seeks to bridge the gap between technology and the poor by bringing innovators together with those who can benefit from their work.

Grants for four projects were announced during the Microenterprise Forum, in Asuncion, Paraguay, this month (8–10 October).

One initiative will improve the access of the poor in Nicaragua to cutting-edge biomedical technologies, such as low-cost diagnostic tools and mobile health informatics, by providing biomedical training kits to scientists.

The project is backed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Innovations in International Health Initiative (IIH) and their Nicaraguan partners, CARE and the Nicaraguan Center for Research and Health Studies.

"The grant funds the development of biomedical design kits so that our Nicaraguan partners can enjoy an 'experimental sandbox' to develop the next generation of medical devices for developing countries," Jose Gomez-Marquez, director of the IIH, told SciDev.Net.

"The grant recognises the importance of making Nicaraguans originators of creative medical technology solutions."

"Our hope is to learn together from our research partnership … and to create a centre of biomedical technology excellence that will send these devices around the world and make a big impact," says Gomez-Marquez.

Italy-based Politecnico di Torino and Fundación Ñambi from Ecuador have joined forces to bring low-cost wireless connectivity to the province of Orellana in Ecuador, to reduce the isolation of local schools and health facilities. 

"The money will be used to transfer our technological solutions to the area, teaching people to manufacture the transmitters, maintain them and also fix them in case of damage," says Daniele Trinchero, from the Politecnico di Torino.

A third winner will allow Haitian peanuts to be used in the production of export-grade "peanut butter medicine", or Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) to be sold to UNICEF and other organisations working in Haiti.

This will provide steady income to the mostly subsistence-level peanut farmers and improve the access of Haiti's children to this nutritious food.

The projects were selected by an international jury from 141 submissions.