The Transformative Power of the Commons

On February 11, 2015, NPR News highlighted a report issued by Lawrence Berkley National Lab’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies.  The report lists 51 technology “breakthroughs” that the authors believe would have the greatest impact on the lives of people in marginalized regions of the world, with a focus on south Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 


In addition to identifying these technologies, the Institute analyzed the feasibility of implementing each one by considering factors such as the role of public policy, access to financing, infrastructure, distribution channels, and existing business models.  The authors of the report see the attractiveness to investors in industrialized markets of commercializing these technologies as a key consideration in their estimated deployment timelines.  Because of this, they identify philanthropic grants as the only possible source of funding for some of the 51 technologies.


Here at the Global Innovation Commons (GIC), we seek to align abundance with need through the equitably-accessible reservoir of human ingenuity that is the Commons.  By recognizing abundance in the form of innovation where it is already open for use, we can shift the paradigms of technology deployment and global “development”.


The GIC has assembled sets of public domain innovation relevant to a number of the report’s 51 listed breakthroughs, including:


  •      “A new method for desalination: scalable, low cost, and using renewable energy;
  •       Vaccines that can effectively control and eventually help eradicate the major infectious diseases of our time—HIV/AIDS, Malaria and TB;
  •      New methods to produce fertilizers to replace current processes, which are extremely capital intensive and have significant environmental footprints;
  •       Affordable herbicides or other mechanisms to control weeds, ideally ones that are more environmentally friendly than herbicides currently on the market;
  •      New seed varieties that are tolerant to drought, heat, and other emerging environmental stresses;
  •       Suite of solar photovoltaic mini-grid components, to significantly reduce upfront costs;
  •      Low cost (under $500) transport for families, ideally using renewable energy.”


Follow these links to view the full GIC sets by country:


Renewable Power Desalination -


Malaria -


Fertilizer -


Herbicides/Fungicides -


Drought Resistant Technology -


Solar energy -



Be sure to visit our homepage at to explore the full breadth of the four GIC Categories.





National Public Radio. “The 50 Most Effective Ways To Transform The Developing

World.” Morning Edition. 11 Feb. 2015.


LIGTT, 2014. 50 Breakthroughs: Critical Scientific and Technological Advances Needed

for Sustainable Global Development. LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, Berkeley, CA, USA.

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