April 19, 2016 eleanor.greene

As the LAUNCH team gears up for the start of our 2016 cycles, we thought we would take a look at some our past innovators (One from each of our five earliest cycles: Water, Health, Energy, Beyond Waste and Fabrics) and the impact that they are having on people and places throughout the world. From the Americas to Asia to South America, Africa, Australia and Europe, LAUNCH innovators are helping to address some of the world’s greatest challenges and further a more sustainable future for humanity and the planet.

Members of the EWB-LA team make use of the CBT in Tanzania.  Photo courtesy of Aqugenx.


Aquagenx/Compartment Bag Test

Innovator: Mark Sobsey

Website: https://www.aquagenx.com/

The Aquagenx Compartment Bag Test (CBT) is a simple, portable water quality test that lets anyone measure E. coli bacteria in water to determine if it poses a health risk. It is ideal for on-site testing in rural, low resource and disaster/emergency areas. The CBT is used by major NGOs, humanitarian relief organizations, governments, private companies and universities around the world.

In a recent example, a team from Engineers Without Borders-Los Angeles (EWB-LA) using the Aquagenx CBT while working on a project to improve the tap water system in Lulindi, Tanzania discovered that the village’s main water source was highly contaminated, mostly likely by local school latrines. This discovery enabled EWB-LA to identify safer water sources for the village.



Propeller Health (formerly Asthmapolis)

Innovator: David Van Sickle

Photo courtesy of Propeller Health

Website: https://www.propellerhealth.com/

Propeller is the leading digital health platform in respiratory medicine. The company has received FDA 510(k) class II clearance to measure and improve medication adherence, predict exacerbations, and help reduce the frequency of symptoms and exacerbations in asthma and COPD.

Propeller’s platform has been clinically validated in two randomized controlled trials and more than ten clinical studies involving over 1400 patients. It has been used by patients with asthma or COPD in over 40 commercial programs across the US at major healthcare systems, payers, employers and other commercial partners. Propeller is backed by Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE: SFE), Social Capital, California HealthCare Foundation, Kapor Capital and other investors, and has been recognized by the TEDMED Innovation Showcase, White House Champion of Change, and Bluetooth Breakthrough Product awards, and others.

LAUNCH Energy: 2011

Promethean Power

Innovator: Sorin Grama

Photo courtesy of Promethean Power

Website: http://www.coolectrica.com/

Promethean Power Systems designs and manufactures refrigeration systems for cold-storage applications in off-grid and partially electrified areas of developing countries. Their products enable farmers and food suppliers to reliably store and preserve perishable food items—such as milk, fruits and vegetables—without the need for expensive diesel-powered generators.

Promethean Power Systems has installed over 200 milk-chilling systems throughout rural India. Each system serves approximately 20-30 farmers who can now deliver more milk to quality conscious dairy processors. The dairies in turn collect more milk and produce higher value and higher quality products for Indian consumers.

In 2015, Promethean was awarded the VentureWell / Lemelson Sustainable Practice Award.

LAUNCH Beyond Waste (2012)


A pharmacy technician at one of SIRUM's recipient sites pops out donated medication in order to rebottle it and dispense it to a patient in need.  Photo courtesy of SIRUM.

Innovator: Kiah Williams

Website: http://www.sirum.org/

Using an innovative technology platform, SIRUM saves people’s lives by allowing health facilities, manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies to donate unused medicine rather than destroy it.

As of 2015, SIRUM has helped donate over $5 million of medicine, enough to help almost 150,000 people get medicine they otherwise couldn't afford.

In 2015, SIRUM Co-Founder and Director and LAUNCH Innovator Kiah Williams was selected as a Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneur.


Ecovative/Mushroom Materials

Innovator: Samuel Harrington

Website: http://www.ecovativedesign.com/

A photo of mushroom packaging growing.  Photo courtesy of Ecovative.

Ecovative is a world leading biomaterials company creating and scaling environmentally-friendly products that are cost and performance competitive with conventional materials. The company currently produces and sells a variety of mushroom-based materials, including Myco Board, Myco Foam, Myco Make, Myco Flex, and Myco Grow.

In 2015 Ecovative opened a 20,000 sq. ft manufacturing plant (its second) in Troy, New York and has since produced over 68,000 Mushroom® parts there. Customers include leading industry companies, including Dell, Gunlocke and Enjoy Handplanes, among others. Swedish Home furnishings giant IKEA is considering replacing its polystyrene packaging with Ecovative’s Mushroom Packaging.