The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today approved the establishment of ADB Ventures, a new venture platform that will support and invest in startups offering impact technology solutions that contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Asia and the Pacific.
“This region is brimming with technology solutions to conserve energy, reduce waste, fight climate change, and deliver public services effectively,” said ADB Director General for Private Sector Operations Mr. Mike Barrow. “ADB Ventures will help bring these solutions to market by leveraging our extensive operational networks and filling the risk capital gap facing innovative early-stage companies in developing Asia and the Pacific, particularly smaller and frontier markets.”
ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1, the facility’s anchor trust fund, has a target size of $50 million and is accepting contributions from multiple funding sources including bilateral and multilateral development partners. It will mainly invest in early-stage startups and focus on companies with solutions that can address climate change and empower women. The fund has a 17-year fund life, allowing ADB to invest patient capital into cleantech, fintech, agricultural technology, and health technology solutions.
The Nordic Development Fund, Climate Investment Funds, and the Government of Australia funded project preparation for the ADB Ventures facility. ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1 is expected to begin operations in the second quarter of 2020. One of its main aims will be to mobilize private capital through co-investing with private sector investors.
“Our vision is for ADB Ventures to become the region’s largest impact technology platform, crowding in more than $1 billion of risk capital to achieve the SDGs by 2030,” said Mr. Barrow.
Unlike traditional venture capital funds, ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1 is augmented by a three-year, $12 million technical assistance program that will support impact technology startups through two main activities. ADB Ventures SEED is a grant program to validate and de-risk technology pilots and promote expansion into emerging markets that startup companies might otherwise not prioritize. ADB Venture Lab is a suite of corporate innovation programs implemented in partnership with industry and leading accelerators for startups. ADB Ventures will leverage ADB’s operational networks and industry expertise to generate technology pilot opportunities and support ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1 portfolio companies.
WEF Unveils Virtual Global Collaboration Village as the Future of Strong Public-Private Cooperation
The World Economic Forum is embarking on an ambitious new journey to harness the potential of the metaverse as a platform for collaborative, inclusive and effective international action.
The Forum, in collaboration with Accenture and Microsoft, is building a Global Collaboration Village as the virtual future of public-private cooperation. It will provide immersive spaces where stakeholders can convene, create and take action on the world’s most pressing challenges.
“Since our founding in 1971, the Forum has served as a platform where business, government, civil society and other stakeholders can come together to address critical global issues,” said Klaus Schwab, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman. “The metaverse will influence the way, people, governments, companies and society at large think, work, interact and communicate for the purpose of collectively addressing issues on the global agenda. The Global Collaboration Village will be an extension of the World Economic Forum’s public private platforms and in-person meetings and will provide a more open, more sustained and more comprehensive process for coming together.”
Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO of Accenture, said: “While the metaverse is only in its early days, it already holds great promise, not only for redefining how organizations work and interact but also for fostering effective public-private partnerships. We are pleased to collaborate with the World Economic Forum and Microsoft in creating the Global Collaboration Village and pioneering a trusted metaverse space. This will complement the Forum’s real-world collaborations and invite a range of diverse stakeholders to come together to address the world’s most critical challenges and innovate a more sustainable future for all.”
The Global Collaboration Village will bring together key global stakeholders – international organizations, governments, partner companies and civil society organizations – to imagine alternative futures, explore ideas in an immersive way and envision what the future world could be. The Forum aims to be a pioneer within this new space and bring together others to co-create within it.
Key aims of the Global Collaboration Village
– Global cooperation – To create a new virtual space where global interaction can be enhanced and cooperative solutions found
– Interactivity – To provide immersive experiences to foster a better understanding of key global challenges
– Inclusivity – To offer a collaborative public space where broad participation in discussions about pressing global issues is both encouraged and enabled
– Impact – The platform and all of its goals are geared towards catalysing more effective individual and collective action following the Forum’s mission statement and commitment to improving the state of the world
About the launch of the Global Cooperation Village
The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the Strategic Partners Accenture and Microsoft, presented the overall concept and architecture of the Global Collaboration Village, as well as a proof-of-concept of the experience and functionality, at the Annual Meeting 2022.
This launch is the first step on a new journey. The Forum will continue to develop the Global Collaboration Village, together with a founding partners group, over the coming months and years, with the aim of turning the metaverse into a place where international cooperation can be strengthened and re-energized.
In addition, the Forum is launching a new initiative on Defining and Building the Metaverse, which convenes more than 60 leading companies from technology and other sectors alongside experts from governments, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of governance and policy frameworks for the metaverse and strengthen economic and social value creation opportunities. This initiative and the Global Collaboration Village will help shape the foundations of the metaverse to truly create an equitable, interoperable and safe digital environment from the onset.
Drones to Save Lives by Providing Urban-Grade Healthcare in Rural Areas of India
A new experimental programme has shown how drone technology can be used to bring quality healthcare to people living in the remotest areas of India.
Healthcare professionals delivered vaccines, COVID-19 testing samples and medical products to a population of over 300,000 people represented by eight district health facilities in the Vikarabad district of the southern state of Telangana. The district was chosen because it includes communities living in the dense forests of the Anantagiri hills. The trial involved over 300 drone sorties in a 45-day period.
The trial oversaw the first vaccine delivery over long range (beyond visual line of sight) in Asia. It is part of a wider programme, Medicine from the Sky, led by the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India, in partnership with the Government of Telangana, Apollo Hospital’s Healthnet Global and NITI Aayog, the Indian government’s federal think-tank. The programme aims to work with business, policy-makers and communities to use drone technology to extend urban-grade healthcare to India’s remotest areas. Multiple stakeholders were consulted throughout, including healthcare workers, local communities, local police, district-level administrators and local air traffic control.
The findings of the trial, outlined in the report Medicine from the Sky, India: How Drones Can Make Primary Healthcare Accessible to All, offer a practical vision for delivering essential medicines to citizens who lack access to basic healthcare.
It comes after the central Indian government brought in Drone Rules 2021, a more liberalized regime for unmanned aircraft systems, which is expected to transform core sectors of the economy including logistics, agriculture, healthcare and emergency response. It also follows a drive to improve rural healthcare, with a range of programmes aimed at making it more accessible and inexpensive. The pandemic highlighted the lack of access to healthcare for rural communities due to infrastructure, supply and transport challenges.
Jyotiraditya Scindia, India’s Minister for Civil Aviation, described the programme as “pathbreaking”. He said: “With the recent liberalization of drone rules and the numerous government incentives for the drone sector, the stage is set for this innovative technology to flourish in India. To that end, the Medicine from the Sky initiative has demonstrated how the country can successfully make use of cutting-edge drone technology to ensure no one is left behind in terms of access to primary healthcare. We are hopeful that subsequent phases of this initiative will mainstream drones in healthcare.”
As key partners in the programme, the state government of Telangana earmarked the district of Vikarabad for the trials as it serves communities in the forests of Anantagiri. KT Rama Rao, Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development, Industries & Commerce, and Information Technology of Telangana, said: “Telangana has been a torchbearer for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Using drones to successfully enable a case for touching the lives of citizens in remote and inaccessible areas is a highlight that demonstrates how drones can be integrated into the healthcare ecosystem. Post Telangana, several other states have replicated the medical delivery use case.”
Apollo Hospitals was a clinical partner in the trail. Sangita Reddy, joint managing director, said the organization’s mission was “to enable access to quality healthcare services globally with the use of cutting-edge technology”.
“We look forward to continuing working with the World Economic Forum, the Government of Telangana and other states across the country in this project, which I am sure would be the inception of a new age in enhancing the healthcare supply chain,” she said.
NITI Aayog involved key decision makers in the programme to ensure high standards of compliance. “The pilot programme has demonstrated how detailed planning at the last mile, in consultation with local communities, can go a long way in ensuring that the country benefits immensely from drone technology,” said Anna Roy, Senior Adviser, NITI Aayog.
Purushottam Kaushik, Head of the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution India, said that India’s policies on the lower skies are opening up new possibilities for innovation, business and humanitarian work. “It’s critical that all citizens can benefit from this technology. This programme is enabling emergency healthcare services in remote terrain where access to services is very challenging. Drones will not only transcend difficult terrain but also pave the way for secure delivery for vaccines, medicines and all sorts of payloads,” he said.
The small things make a big difference in the science of measurement
Scientists must make ever more sophisticated measurements as technology shrinks to the nanoscale and we face global challenges from the effects of climate change.
As industry works more and more on the nanometre scale (a nanometre is a billionth of a metre), there is a need to measure more reliably and accurately things we can barely see. This requires metrology, the science of measurement.
Nano-scale metrology is useful in everyday life, for example to measure doses of medication or in the development of computer chips for our digital devices.
‘Metrology is needed everywhere that you make measurements or if you want to compare measurements,’ said Virpi Korpelainen, senior scientist at the Technical Research Centre of Finland and National Metrology Institute in Espoo, Finland.
Since the earliest civilisations, standardised and consistent measurements have always been crucial to the smooth functioning of society. In ancient times, physical quantities such as a body measurement were used.
One of the earliest known units was the cubit, which was approximately the length of a forearm. The Romans used fingers and feet in their measurement systems while the story goes that Henry I of England (c 1068 – 1135) tried to standardise a yard as the distance from his nose to his thumb.
Standardisation demands precise definitions and consistent measurements. In the interest of greater accuracy, in the 1790s, the French government commission standardised the metre as the basic unit of distance. This set Europe on a path to the standardised international system of base units (SI) which has been evolving since.
Since 2018, some key definitions of measurement units have been redefined. The kilo, the ampere, the kelvin and the mole are now based on fundamental constants in nature instead of physical models. This is because over time, the physical models change as happened with the model of the kilo, which lost a tiny amount of mass over 100 years after it was created. With this new approach, which was adopted after years of careful science, the definitions will not change.
This evolution is often driven by incredibly sophisticated science, familiar only to metrologists, such as the speed of light in a vacuum (metre), the rate of radioactive decay (time) or the Planck constant (kilogram), all of which are used to calibrate key units of measurement under the SI.
‘When you buy a measuring instrument, people typically don’t think of where the scale comes from,’ said Korpelainen. This goes for scientists and engineers too.
Once the realm of research scientists, nanoscales are increasingly important in industry. Nanotechnology, computer chips and medications typically rely on very accurate measurements at very small scales.
Even the most advanced microscopes need to be calibrated, meaning that steps must be taken to standardise its measurements of the very small. Korpelainen and colleagues around Europe are developing improved atomic force microscopes (AFMs) in an ongoing project called MetExSPM.
AFM is a type of microscope that gets so close to a sample, it can almost reveal its individual atoms. ‘In industry, people need traceable measurements for quality control and for buying components from subcontractors,’ said Korpelainen.
The project will allow the AFM microscopes to take reliable measurements at nanoscale resolution by using high-speed scanning, even on relatively large samples.
‘Industry needs AFM resolution if they want to measure distances between really small structures,’ Korpelainen said. Research on AFMs has revealed that measurement errors are easily introduced at this scale and can be as high as 30%.
The demand for small, sophisticated, high-performing devices means the nanoscale is growing in importance. She used an AFM microscope and lasers to calibrate precision scales for other microscopes.
She also coordinated another project, 3DNano, in order to measure nanoscale 3D objects that are not always perfectly symmetrical. Precise measurements of such objects support the development of new technology in medicine, energy storage and space exploration.
Dr Annette Röttger, a nuclear physicist at PTB, the national metrology institute in Germany is interested in measuring radon, a radioactive gas with no colour, smell or taste.
Radon is naturally occurring. It originates from decaying uranium below ground. Generally, the gas leaks into the atmosphere and is harmless, but it can reach dangerous levels when it builds up in dwellings, potentially causing illness to residents.
But there is another reason Röttger is interested in measuring radon. She believes it can improve the measurement of important greenhouse gases (GHG).
‘For methane and carbon dioxide, you can measure the amounts in the atmosphere very precisely, but you cannot measure the flux of these gases coming out of the ground, representatively,’ said Röttger.
‘Flux’ is the rate of seepage of a gas. It is a helpful measurement to trace the quantities of other GHG such as methane that also seep out of the ground. Measurements of methane coming out of the ground are variable, so that one spot will differ from another a few steps away. The flow of radon gas out of the ground closely tracks the flow of methane, a damaging GHG with both natural and human origins.
When radon gas emissions from the ground increase, so do carbon dioxide and methane levels. ‘Radon is more homogenous,’ said Röttger, ‘and there is a close correlation between radon and these greenhouse gases.’ The research project to study it is called traceRadon.
Radon is measured via its radioactivity but because of its low concentrations it is very challenging to measure. ‘Several devices will not work at all, so you will get a zero-reading value because you are below the detection limit,’ said Röttger.
Measuring the escape of radon enables scientists to model the rate of emissions over a landscape. This can be useful to measure the effects of climate mitigation measures. For example, research indicates that the rapid rewetting of drained peatland stores greenhouse gas and mitigates climate change.
But if you go to the trouble of rewetting a large marshland, ‘You will want to know if this worked,’ said Röttger. ‘If it works for these GHG, then we should see less radon coming out too. If we don’t, then it didn’t work.’
With more precise calibration, the project will improve radon measurements over large geographical areas. This may also be used to improve radiological early warning systems in a European monitoring network called the European Radiological Data Exchange Platform (EURDEP).
‘We have lots of false alarms (due to radon) and we might even miss an alarm because of this,’ said Röttger. ‘We can make this network better which is increasingly important for radiological emergency management support by metrology.’
Given the intensity of the climate crisis, it is crucial to present reliable data for policy makers, added Röttger. This will assist greatly in addressing climate change, arguably the biggest threat mankind has faced since the cubit was first employed as a measure in ancient Egypt over 3,000 years ago.
The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
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