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Legatum Center awards 2009 seed grants to 8 teams

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT has awarded summer seed grants to eight teams of students from across the Institute, giving them the necessary means to bolster innovative solutions to development challenges in low-income countries.

Of the 20-plus proposals received, the Legatum Center awarded funding for projects in China, Guyana, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru and Tanzania. Teams will use the grants to conduct market research, project scoping and pilot studies during the summer break.

"MIT students are passionate and creative problem-solvers, and through these grants they can advance projects that have as their aim the creation of a sustainable enterprise in a low-income country," said Iqbal Z. Quadir, founder and director of the Legatum Center.

The teams that received grants were:

- BLISS (Business and Life Skills School)
- Creaciones Norteñas del Peru: Scaling Up
- EGG-tech
- Global Citizen Water Initiative
- Global Cycle Solutions
- IDC India
- Mama Mboga Project
- Phi Wave

IDC-India team members Javier Hernandez and Neeharika Bhartiya will use their seed grant funding to travel to Mumbai, India, to work with the NGO Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust to help handicapped individuals - more than 20 million of whom live in India - to start their own businesses. "Using the seed grant we plan on manufacturing business specific wheelchairs and tricycles in India that will then be used by the handicapped to start their own entrepreneurial businesses to become financially independent," Hernandez writes.

Fellow summer seed grant recipient Jessica Mazonson will use her seed grant award to help take her Peruvian women's knitting cooperative, Creaciones Norteñas, into its next stage of growth. She explains, "Ultimately, our goal is for Creaciones Norteñas to be a viable, sustainable, for-profit business that provides security for mothers and families while inspiring all of the local community to dream beyond the predictable poverty trap. I am grateful to Legatum for the opportunity to continue to be a part of this inspiring organization."

"These seed grants enable the Legatum Center to reach entrepreneurial students at the undergraduate and graduate levels who exemplify MIT's credo of 'Mens et Manus' (mind and hand) by using their creativity and training to do something practical that will empower ordinary citizens in the developing world," said Michael F. Maltese, managing director of the Legatum Center.

The Legatum Center's seed grants have been made possible through the generous support of MIT alumnus Jack Hennessy, who was previously a board member of the MIT Corporation, chairman and CEO of Credit Suisse First Boston, and assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT was founded in 2007 with a gift from Legatum, a global investment firm. Led by Iqbal Z. Quadir, founder of GrameenPhone and Emergence BioEnergy, the center is focused on promoting entrepreneurship in low-income countries. The center runs a highly competitive fellowship program for incoming or current graduate students at MIT. For more information about the center, visit:

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