KyotoU receives Grand Challenges Explorations grant in global health and development (11 June 2019)

On 11 June 2019, a Kyoto University scientist was announced as a winner of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Hidenori Harada will pursue an innovative global health and development research project entitled: “Transforming fecal sludge emptying business”.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) supports innovative thinkers worldwide to explore ideas that can break the mold in how to solve persistent global health and development challenges. Dr Harada’s project is one of approximately 50 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 22 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

To receive funding, Dr Harada and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners submitted two-page, online applications describing bold ideas in one of seven critical global health and development topic areas. The foundation will be accepting applications for the next GCE round in September 2019.

In his project, Dr Harada will develop an emptier- and customer-friendly fecal sludge emptying system with IoT (Internet-of-Things) features. Proper utilization of onsite sanitation currently available to 2.8 billion people is needed to achieve the United Nations’ SDG6 sanitation target. However, fecal sludge accumulated by onsite sanitation is often informally emptied, illegally discharged, and inappropriately dumped in the open environment. Ongoing emptying business frameworks cannot alone solve these persistent problems. Dr Harada will test his system to ensure that emptiers create emptying demand themselves, onsite sanitation facilities are properly monitored, emptying is scheduled, and transport of sludge is safely tracked. This system is expected to transform the emptying business model from request-based passive emptying to demand-creating active emptying.

Dr Harada, principal investigator for the project, is an assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies (GSGES). He works predominantly on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) issues in developing regions, in particular in Asia and Africa. With a background in environmental engineering and global environmental studies, he seeks to raise WASH quality through implementation of environmentally-friendly technologies and systems for human waste management.


An open sewer in a residential area of Mandalay, Myanmar (KyotoU/Harada)

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