The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is a Korean organization that promotes global development. In 2015, they launched an initiative known as Creative Technology Solutions (CTS). CTS awards grants to a select number of research projects that could potentially provide innovative breakthroughs in global development.

A rigorous application process is required to select recipients of the grant. First, written proposals are accepted. Among the initial candidates, few are chosen to give presentations on their proposals. Those who pass the presentation stage are then given interviews and tested on their problem-solving ability. Candidates who make it through all stages are promised a grant to fund their research.

In 2015, 10 teams were selected from the 99 that applied. One research project involved designing a portable autorefractor, which provides detailed imaging of the eye, allowing a quick diagnosis of vision problems. According to KOICA, 80 percent of cases of blindness could have been prevented with a routine checkup, so providing a method of quick and efficient diagnosis should be beneficial to combating visual impairment, especially in underdeveloped nations.

Another team has developed a solar energy system that can be cost-effectively installed in houses that do not otherwise have access to energy. This solar home system is being tested in Cambodia. With the help of this device, Cambodia hopes to increase the percentage of rural households with access to electricity from 57 percent to at least 70 percent.

In addition to creating effective technological solutions, KOICA CTS also aims for a widespread outreach. They are planning to be active in various countries throughout Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Latin America. Second round searches for grant recipients have already launched on July 18 of this year.

The practice of awarding grants in this fashion is reminiscent of the Grand Challenges initiative, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began in an effort to fund research going towards global development.

In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation considered the launch of the second round of KOICA CTS as the beginning of Grand Challenges South Korea. This means that CTS will be working more closely with other groups involved in Grand Challenges. The likelihood of strengthening these efforts through the addition of CTS, and increasing research is starting to look very hopeful.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr