Researchers deliver science for humanitarian action

Around the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) supports people affected by wars and conflicts. To help make planning and implementation of this humanitarian action more effective, ETH Zurich, EPFL and the ICRC launched the Engineering for Humanitarian Action initiative in December 2020. Its goal is to make knowledge and technologies from both universities available where they are critically needed: in humanitarian crises.

The program provides financial support to specific projects run by EPFL and ETH Zurich labs. Two series of projects – 12 in all – have already been funded, with the first round now providing results to the ICRC. These will resolve logistical issues in healthcare provision, protect refugees through biometrics, make ICRC construction projects more sustainable, create new digital infrastructure to protect against cyberattacks and more.

“The collaboration shows how digital technologies and scientific expertise support the ICRC in carrying out its important work and thus help people in need,” says ETH President Joël Mesot.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing the real-world impact of the projects already completed or in progress, as well as new proposals,” adds EPFL President Martin Vetterli. “Our researchers are hugely motivated to contribute to a better world in these turbulent times.”

ICRC Vice-President Gilles Carbonnier explains: “Fast advances in science and technology offer huge potential to unlock innovation for greater humanitarian impact. As we turn research findings into action, there is much more to come!”

Generous donations by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), along with the Foundation for the ICRC, Rolex and the Fondation Lombard Odier will enable this initiative to continue with future calls for projects. “Bringing humanitarian action and science closer together, as this collaborative initiative will do, is how we ensure that technological development helps improve life for those that need it the most,” says SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos.

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