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Technology transfer: barriers to uptake of innovations in emergency water and sanitation

Published on: 14/04/2011

In order to gain insight in the barriers within the transfer of technology for emergency water and sanitation applications in developing countries a partnership between the University of Glasgow and Oxfam GB was formed under the Enhanced Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance initiative (ELRHA). A study was undertaken to examine why there remains a gap between what is researched (i.e. academia), what is available (i.e. industry), and what is practised (i.e. humanitarian NGOs and agencies) with regards to water supply and sanitation technologies.

Based on a review of available technologies and stakeholder surveys, these were some of the findings:

  • Many currently-available water treatment solutions are “overengineered” with regards to their performance and the requirements of humanitarian water supply response; interestingly, technologies that have been known to be developed through a collaboration between practitioners, industry and academia were the most cost effective.
  • Many new advances, some of which have still not found applications in developed-world contexts, have potential applications in water and sanitation issues
  • The available training courses focused on humanitarian water and sanitation seem to cover most basic concepts necessary to utilise currently-available water and sanitation methods; as new technologies are introduced this sector would need to incorporate any training related activities with it
  • A great deal of work must be done to standardise the current methods of developing technologies for field use; there is also much scope for the use of local markets in disaster prone areas to assist in contingency planning and preparedness if they work in partnership with foreign investors and micro-finance schemes
  • Several improvements are needed to move emerging technologies into the field, including:
    • better education and awareness (mainly on behalf of those developing the innovations) related to the need of emergencies and field conditions
    • development of an effective review system to enable fair comparison of currently available and emerging technologies
    • setting up effective fora for new innovations to be showcased to practitioners and endusers

The University of Glasgow and Oxfam GB have submitted several proposals for follow-up research on overcoming communication gaps in order to streamline the development of cost-effective water and sanitation technologies for humanitarian aid. Download the full report below.

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