Technology acceleration program for sustainable development: SDC contribution to EPFL’s Tech4Dev program phase II and to ETH4D phase II, 2024 - 2027

EPFL’s and ETH’s community-centric technology programs encourage transdisciplinary North-South research including academics and practitioners to develop locally aware and innovative approaches that shall bring impactful solutions to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Transdisciplinary science and research are playing an essential role to implement the Agenda 2030. After successfully launching both initiatives in 2019, SDC continues to partner with both Swiss universities.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Sector not specified
01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027
CHF  7’100’000
Background Despite unprecedented progress in poverty reduction, about one billion people still live on less than two dollars per day. At the same time, many countries struggling with extreme poverty have dynamic economies, creating new opportunities for innovative approaches to address social and environmental challenges. The 2030 Agenda encourages science to build bridges and forge partnerships with actors from policy and practice (including the private sector) to co-create solutions to the most pressing global challenges. Transdisciplinary research and technological innovations contribute to the quest of leaving no one behind if they are made available, accessible, affordable and attractive for users. Tech4Dev and ETH4D, both initiated in 2019, have made proof of concept supporting Swiss-led consortia developing technologies and business models which address concrete global challenges and development needs of people in the global South. These initiatives also contribute to educate future leaders engaged for sustainable development in Switzerland and in partner countries.
Objectives To advance research and provide technological and social innovation for improving the lives of people in LMICs by supporting transdisciplinary North-South research, technology development and science-based innovation that is scalable and responds to the sustainable development needs and challenges.
Target groups

Beneficiaries (technology users) in partners countries in the global South

Researchers from the global South as well as Swiss academics engaged in North-South collaboration at EPFL and ETH

Research-, governmental-, non-governmental- and business- partners in the global South

Medium-term outcomes

Outcome 1: impact-oriented and need-based solutions addressing global challenges and advancing poverty eradication are developed

Outcome 2: an expanding network of committed stakeholders supporting sustainability and scaling of the proposed solutions beyond the program is created

Outcome 3: knowledge and behavioral change of key stakeholders, incl. local governments, NGOs and researchers is increased


Expected results:  

Outcome 1: (i) a number of relevant research projects are launched and sustained; (ii) the development and transfer of research projects in the field is accelerated; (iii) transdisciplinary partnerships with universities in the global South as well as with NGOs / industry and governmental institutions are launched and (iv) students, researchers and broader public participate in SDG relevant courses and events.

Outcome 2: (i) development actors which support the scaling of sustainable solutions (Swiss and LMICs actors) are engaged; (ii) the transition of projects to the right scale actor are supported; (iii) development organizations are equipped with relevant solutions and (iv) start-ups are funded to scale innovations in the global South.

Outcome 3: (i) researchers, NGOs, local partners and development actors are engaged and committed throughout the program; (ii) coaching is provided to ensure efficient, effective and equitable research cooperation with LMICs.

Results from previous phases:  

Tech4Dev and ETH4D are still young research initiatives seeking to develop knowledge, expertise and capacities of both universities to address societal challenges in the global South. According to the 2023 external evaluation the following insights are key:

  • While facing classical development challenges in bringing technological innovations to society and implement them at scale, the scope and clarity of the research-to-development cycle is critical (“funnel approach”)
  • Strong and trusted partnerships between NGOs, research labs and local governments are essential to achieve real impact and the universities start-up creation experience has proven highly valuable
  • Substantive projects have been realized during phase 1: be it the development and testing of a low-cost seismic isolation system using rubber spheres, a study showing that iron deficiency anemia (IDA) having major impact on the efficacy of vaccines or the development of a resilient shelter solution for the South Sudan population affected by flooding involving local entities, with the potential of scaling

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Project partners Contract partner
Private sector
Swiss Academic and Research Institution
  • Swiss Private Sector
  • Swiss Universities or FHS

Coordination with other projects and actors

KFPE (scnat), the SOR4D program and with selected TRANSFORM partners

Occasionally with other EPFL or ETH initiatives like NADEL or the Essential Tech Center

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    7’100’000 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    0 Total project since first phase Swiss budget CHF   6’000’000 Budget inclusive project partner CHF   13’180’000
Project phases Phase 7 01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027   (Current phase) Phase 5 01.10.2021 - 31.12.2027   (Current phase) Phase 4 01.10.2021 - 31.03.2032   (Current phase) Phase 3 01.12.2020 - 31.12.2024   (Current phase) Phase 2 01.03.2021 - 28.02.2026   (Current phase) Phase 1 01.12.2020 - 31.12.2025   (Current phase)