US centre boosts technology ventures

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The US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has opened an academic centre to foster business ventures that support sustainable growth and technologies for the developing world.

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship (LCDE) was announced by MIT last week (17 September). Private investment company Legatum has pledged US$50 million for the centre and its fellowships.

The LCDE is located at MIT in Cambridge, United States. It will help students to develop and commercialise new technologies that provide practical solutions for problems related to developing countries, including poverty alleviation and improving health and education through translating scientific and technological ideas into the marketplace.

The centre will engage visiting scholars and industry leaders, organising seminars, workshops, and debates and forums on topics relating to entrepreneurship, leadership and business development.

The LCDE is now seeking applications from graduate students at MIT for the first of the centre’s fellowships, with the first students due to begin in the 2008–2009 academic year.

The fellowships will provide financial support to students and also offer them training programmes on ways to develop systems for offering a product or service. Fellows will also participate in a cross-faculty programme, drawing upon the expertise of MIT’s programmes and laboratories.

Iqbal Quadir, executive director of the LCDE and an entrepreneur from Bangladesh, said the centre will provide MIT students with fellowships if they demonstrate meaningful abilities and interest in creating entrepreneurial ventures in developing countries.

Quadir said the ventures that students are expected to create after they leave MIT are likely to be technology based. Previous MIT projects have included locally-made wind turbines for towns in central America and low-cost WiFi technology for rural communities.

Quadir said the centre aims to promote sustainable economic development in developing countries through innovative business. He said the LCDE is contemplating several cooperation agreements with institutes in developing countries, and is currently working on one such agreement with an institute in Costa Rica.* Further details were not disclosed. 

Magdi Tawfik Abdelhamid, a researcher at the National Research Centre in Cairo, Egypt, welcomed the news, saying, the centre will "help in promoting technological innovation in low-income countries by turning theoretical ideas into real projects to solve problems on the ground".

*A previous version stated that LCDE had already agreed cooperation agreements with institutes in developing countries. This has been amended.