Welcome to the land of innovation! The UNICEF group explores the Singularity University Lab. © UNICEF 2014/Holmes
Welcome to the land of innovation! The UNICEF group explores the Singularity University Lab. © UNICEF 2014/Holmes

What better place to expand the force for change than Silicon Valley? Last month, UNICEF staff visited Singularity University, a Mountain View institution dedicated to bringing the latest and best technological innovations into wider use. Staff from around the globe learned about how new technologies could help their work reach more children, and they challenged the University’s students and resident entrepreneurs to find new ways to address the major challenges children face today.

Founded by Silicon Valley luminaries Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis, Singularity University has the lofty goal of positively affecting the lives of at least one billion people in the next 10 years. They think they can do it thanks to “exponential technologies,” that is, those technologies that now allow small groups of people to do what was once only possible for governments, universities and large companies, quickly and cheaply. For a good summary of what they are, check out this article.

The University also hosts a UNICEF Innovation Lab on its campus, thanks to its partnership with the US Fund for UNICEF. The Lab encourages collaboration between UNICEF and Singularity’s experts, and between other companies who have innovation labs on campus. The collaborations will address ways in which UNICEF can expand the reach and impact of its work through exponential technologies.

Hangar 1, once home to Navy blimps, future home of Google robotics research. © UNICEF 2014/Fabian
Hangar 1, once home to Navy blimps, future home of Google robotics research. © UNICEF 2014/Fabian

The university shares space on Moffett Airfield, with an equally ambitious organization – NASA. This image shows one of the old, decommissioned hangars where the US Navy once stored its blimps. It’s one of the largest freestanding buildings in the world. And Google just bought it.

During the week, UNICEF staff presented their work to students at Singularity University’s Graduate Studies program for “Global Grand Challenges” week. These students, most of whom are at the cutting edge of their scientific fields, select a global challenge to address and create products and services to address it. Some past students’ projects have turned into companies – for example, one that recovers precious metals by recycling e-waste, one that aims to laser-print DNA, and one that makes unmanned aerial vehicles for transport of goods.

Stay tuned this week to learn about the stories UNICEF staff presented.

Lauren Holmes
Digital Strategy Section, Division of Communication
UNICEF NYHQ

Priscilla Chomba-Kinywa and Blair Palmer pose with an unmanned aerial vehicle in Singularity University’s lab. © UNICEF 2014/Holmes
Priscilla Chomba-Kinywa and Blair Palmer pose with an unmanned aerial vehicle in Singularity University’s lab. © UNICEF 2014/Holmes

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