Public Release:  Social commitment and technology for development

Carlos III University of Madrid

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Credit: UC3M

This release is available in Spanish.

Solar dryers, hydraulic micro turbines, solar stoves, low cost manual hand pumps ... all of these are part of the research that is being carried out in the Laboratorio de Tecnologías Apropiadas (LTA -- Appropriate Technologies Laboratory) at Carlos III University of Madrid.

This laboratory, which is part of the university's Engineering School, is committed to social causes. The objective of this research is to use a multidisciplinary approach to develop technologies that are appropriate for developing countries, in areas such as supplying clean drinking water (pumping, distribution and purification) or providing access to energy (heating, cooking and drying, lighting, and generating electric energy), giving priority to technologies which can be used in isolated rural environments.

The heads of the LTA, professors Ulpiano Ruiz Rivas and Jorge Martínez Crespo, of the Department of Thermal and Fluids Engineering and the Department of Electrical Engineering, respectively, point out that the Laboratory "offers the various groups who make up the university community (students, administrative personnel and faculty) the opportunity to receive training, or to work in this area," so they hope to involve "members of the community who can work independently in parallel projects, such as those related to communications or information technology". Moreover, they plan to propose that UC3M create an Expert Course on the subjects they are working on.

In the area of projects in poor countries, appropriate technologies are defined as those that in their design process and implementation in the field take into account the characteristics of the target society. "The technology which is available responds in some way to the needs or interests of the society for which it has been created, and the differences between a neighborhood in Madrid and a rural zone in Chad are obvious", the researchers comment.

Triple purpose

The laboratory has a triple purpose: teaching, technical assistance, and research and development. First, it introduces the students to the appropriate technologies that are commonly used in development projects. Second, it offers technical assistance and provides support to NGOs and other agents. Finally, it allows research projects focused on specific problems to be carried out and improvements to be applied. The LTA is open to the entire university community and its activities are currently linked to fourteen of the University's professors who come from different departments. Approximately 20-degree final projects are being carried out within its facilities.

These researchers move within the field of actions that are connected with the university's social commitment. "In accordance with the universities' code of conduct on issues of development cooperation our activity is novel - the professors say -. There are no similar activities in the Spanish university system, which can be characterized by its scarce participation in projects for development cooperation in the area of technology", they conclude.

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