Launched in 2011, the D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship program serves as an acceleration platform for innovators and entrepreneurs seeking to turn appropriate technologies into scalable and sustainable social ventures. Applications are now open for the 2014-2015 fellowship, a 12-month program that provides a $20,000 grant and access to customized mentoring, skills-building resources, and partnership cultivation opportunities. There will be an information session on March 31 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at D-Lab (Room N51-310) to answer questions from potential applicants, who can register in advance.
Successful fellowship applicants will have a technology concept that is relatively proven will have already gained a base understanding of their value proposition and target market. The fellowship is open to MIT alumni; alumni of Harvard University and Wellesely College who have taken a class at MIT's D-Lab; and alumni of the International Development Design Summit (IDDS). Fellowships for IDDS alumni are made possible by the International Development Innovation Network (IDIN), headquartered at D-Lab and funded by USAID's Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN).
"So many technologies come out of D-Lab and MIT that have the potential to improve the quality of life worldwide, but sadly they never realize this potential due to a lack of seed funding and technical and business mentorship," says Kwami Williams '12, a former Scale-Ups fellow and co-founder of MoringaConnect based in Ghana and the U.S. "Honestly, without [D-Lab Scale-Ups support] we wouldn't exist. Any hope of having an impact on the developing world through our venture would have been slim at best."
"The Scale-Ups program is particularly relevant for those who have taken the Development Ventures class," says Joost Bonsen, a lecturer in the Media Arts and Sciences program and co-creator of Development Ventures, now in its 13th year. The class, also known as the MIT Emerging Markets Innovation Seminar, is part of the D-Lab suite of MIT course offerings and centers on the founding, financing, and building of entrepreneurial ventures targeting developing countries, emerging markets, and underserved consumers everywhere. "Scale-Ups fellowships provide essential next funds for those students serious about scaling up," Bonsen says.
Selected Scale-Ups fellows will be matched with a mentor and meet every two weeks in person or remotely, depending on location. Fellows are required to attend a retreat May 28-29 at the MIT International Design Centre, as well as periodic seminars with other Scale-Ups fellows, and be present for the annual MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference. Additional skills development classes and seminars will be encouraged. Scale-Ups staff may ask fellows to participate in the creation of lessons-learned and case-studies.
Located at D-Lab, MIT's fast-growing and highly regarded technology and international development program, Scale-Ups was created with generous support from Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives (ALJCI), to identify and support technologies with potential for wide-scale poverty alleviation. The Scale-Ups program features a technical assistance program for social enterprises in the developing world and technology research and development initiatives.
D-Lab fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions within the framework of international development. D-Lab programs include 20 MIT courses; fieldwork opportunities for MIT students; research and evaluation programs; conferences; and K-12 outreach.
D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship eligibility requirements:
- Hardware Technology: Strong preference will be given to applicants working on a new or significantly improved physical product that can deliver value to a large number of people in the so-called Base of the Pyramid. We are looking for technologies with a proof of concept, i.e. a prototype has been built and some user testing has occurred to validate the idea. If your project includes a hardware component, but is not exclusively a hardware product, you may be eligible. Please contact Scale-Ups Fellowship Coordinator Eric Reynolds at email@example.com with any questions.
- Availability: You must demonstrate that you are able to devote a minimum of 80 percent FTE (full-time equivalent) to the project with a plan to spend a minimum of three months in your target market over the 12-month fellowship period.
- Travel experience: You must demonstrate experience traveling in developing countries and working in partnership with local organizations and community members.
- Mentors: You must have recruited at least one technical mentor and one business mentor with relevant skills and expertise to your project.
- Partnerships: You must have identified key partners and engaged at least one.
Please note that if you are also applying to the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge or MIT Global Founders’ Skills Accelerator, you may be eligible to submit an abbreviated application. Contact Eric Reynolds (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details.