Humanitarian License PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 24 September 2011 11:06

The first public draft of Natural Innovation's "Humanitarian License" is now available on the web site. Both a plain English and a legalese version are available. Written by Mitra & San Francisco based Intellectual Property (IP) attorney Inder Comar.

The license is intended to help facilitate technology being made available to non-profits for humanitarian purposes, for example for developing country applications where the IP owner has little intention of doing business.

At this time we would be grateful for feedback, especially from any potential users of the license (IP owners, or licensees or attorneys) so that the license can be adapted into an even more useful set of templates.

New Project - Wherever the Need PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 24 September 2011 11:04

Wherever the Need toiletOver 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, more than twice the number lacking power or water.

While in the UK in June I was introduced to David Crosweller of Wherever The Need (WTN) who filled me in on their project to create a viable business model for sanitation so that micro-enterprises could run slum toilets in areas that neither municipalities nor Aid dollars are likedly to reach for a long time.

David explained that in India, poor people will not spend money to use a toilet so the models adopted by Sanergy in Kenya are less likely to work. Instead WTN is looking to generate sufficient revenue from the sale of compost and fertilizer to cover the construction and operating costs of slum toilets.

In August I visited Paramasivan who runs the indian office of WTN and spent a day touring their trials in the slums of Cuddalore. The cultural challenges, from poverty, cast, unclear land ownership etc are huge, and often lead to sub-optimum solutions such as individual stalls spaced out around an area rather than a single block.

Natural Innovation hopes to help WTN through it's collaboration with ReAllocate to source mechanical engineering talent to solve specific challenges of safe waste handling, and chemical engineers to improve the cost effectiveness of turning liquid waste into fertilizer. WTN are also looking for an engineer to work with them to reduce the construction costs.

New project - MinVayu - small wind for the underserved PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 24 September 2011 11:02

MinVayu class and turbine

The highlight of the last few months has been working with MinVayu. MinVayu's founder, Jorge Ayarza is an US/Ecuadorian wind expert, based in Auroville India who has come up with an interesting analysis.

Jorge believes that by designing a small (350W-1kW) turbine for the low-winds of India, and by training local mechanics that he has a scalable, affordable, solution to providing wind power to under-served rural communities. I spent a month with Jorge, helping to refine his business model and in particular to integrate the learnings from the pilot run of the training workshops.

A rural community education center in nearby village is now powered by a turbine constructed during the workshop, and is performing well. However we believe that by thinking about the whole system rather than just the turbine we can make some substantial improvements and drop the overall system cost another 35% which would make wind cheaper than solar in many even low wind locations.

The opportunity presented by a system that is cheaper than current Solar Home Systems is substantial with the potential to create a business that meets the magic target of being both highly profitable and having a high impact.

Equinox - March 2011 newsletter PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 04 April 2011 02:25

mar 2011 equinox newsletter

I've just sent out my second newsletter, and you can read it here, and you can subscribe here to get future issues.

Mentoring PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2011 11:21

I've been involved in a number of mentoring programs over the year and most recently with Villgro, who have an interesting take on it, where they pair an experienced mentor, with a business student. This allows a small amount of the mentors time to leverage a lot of the students time. Both the innovator, and the student gain experience from this. {More}

Rural wind installation network PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2011 11:20

I've been helping an Indian based Ecuadorian - Jorge Ayarza to develop his idea to train a network of village mechanics to build, install and maintain small wind turbines. He's using an open-source design, and will supply key components where it helps reduce costs. {More}

Urban Ecological Systems - Planning position PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2011 11:19

UES logoUrban Ecological Systems a company I helped raise several million dollars just before starting Natural Innovaftion .org have received planning permission for their state of the art integrated organic horticulture & aquaculture plant to be built near Sydney. This site is funded, but they are still looking for investment in the core company.

New Project - Humanitarian Licenses PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2011 11:18

I've been working on an idea for a simple licensing agreement that for-profit developers of technology can use to allow their inventions to be used for humanitarian purposes. It is intended for use when Open-Source is not appropriate because of the need to protect the investors interests, but where a separate developing country market could be addressed by a non-profit.

I've had assistance from Inder Comar a San Francisco based IP attorney in producing a draft and discussions with some other pro-bono attorneys and I hope that we can produce something that is, to patents, what Creative Commons is to copyright, i.e. an easy to use template that encourages material to be more freely available.

The last mile - bridging the distribution gap PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2011 11:15

One of the biggest challenges of getting technology into the hands of the people who need it is the distribution. It would be naive to think that all is needed is the right "product". Marketing to the bottom of the pyramid is hard - and despite the book I have yet to find anyone making a "Fortune at the Base of the Pyramid". I do believe however that in order to scale, we need business models that make technical solutions affordable to villages, and that allow a supply chain that can operate without continual donations.

This last quarter, I've spent most of the time in India meeting with Social Ventures (NGO's and companies) working to bring technology to rural poor. I talked with seven groups in different states and with different approaches. Most expressed an interest in Sunvention's SunPulse Water and in New World Machine's solar cooling.

It was particularly good to speak with NGO's working effectively like a business, but motivated by impact rather than profit, and I look forward to an effective network that can ease the transition from lab to field.

Sunvention - investment sourced PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 March 2011 11:14

Sunvention greenhouse and sunpulse waterI spent the latter part of 2010 in southern Germany with Sunvention. In early January, Sunvention, was able to come to agreement with a prominent Swiss Foundation to become a majority owner of Sunvention.

The Foundation's main mission is to bring technologies to poor villages in developing countries, and this alignment with Sunvention's core purpose will allow Sunvention to focus on products with the highest humanitarian impact.

Sunvention plans to complete development of some key products and bring them to market in 2011. These products include: SunPulse Water, a solar thermal pump; SunPulse Electric - an off-grid power system; and the SunRay - a heat collection systems for greenhouses;

Sunvention's team has come back together, and production has commenced at their Indonesian partner - ATMI. Distribution will begin initially in India and Indonesia.

Sunvention are still very interested in an investor for the SunPulse Water which has the potential to be commercially viable and have a significant impact.

Their website should be up soon;

Please contact me if you are interested in investing.


Sunvention in the running for Buckminster Fuller Challenge PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 12 February 2011 18:23

UPDATED: Sunvention's Solar Power Villages proposal has made it to the semi-finalists.


I'm proud that Sunvention has made it into the list of contenders for this year's Buckminster Fuller Challenge. This challenge, based on the concepts of Bucky Fuller, is looking for out-of-the box and practical solutions to today's practical problems.

Some extracts and images from a much longer entry (that I co-authored) have been posted by the Buckminster Fuller Institute online on

It would of course be great to get comments on the site.


Page 2 of 4

Support Natural Innovation

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning how to dance in the rain. -- anon

Newsletter Subscription

RSS feed entire site

Natural Innovation Foundation