Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and the inventor of microcredit, visited EPFL today where he led a conference. The school took this opportunity to announce a new social impact initiative, which includes the creation of the first Yunus Social Business Center in Switzerland.
In a world that sees innovation as a way to grow the bottom line, technology can also be used as a way to resolve society’s most pressing social challenges and improve the lives of millions of people around the globe. This is a natural area of interest for EPFL, a leader in innovation, which is launching the Social Impact Initiative (SII). The aim of the SII is seeks to bridge the gap between technology and innovation to maximize social impact and involve all stakeholder groups, from academia to businesses and start-ups, by bringing them together on a common theme of social impact. The SII is built on three pillars: education, innovation and awareness-raising. In the area of education, the SII is preparing to offer a new course on social impact and social entrepreneurship, including a MOOC called Social Venture. On the innovation front, last week the SII entered into its first partnership. It will team up with Buhler, which has offices at EPFL Innovation Park, to develop an innovative and low-cost crop storage facility for small farmers. Other pioneering projects are in the works as well.
Yunus Social Business Center
EPFL will also house Switzerland’s only Yunus Social Business Center. The partnership agreement - which was signed at the recent Global Social Business Summit in Paris in the presence of Dr. Yunus and Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris - was announced today at a public talk given by Dr. Yunus to an audience of over 350 students. Dr. Yunus, who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for creating the Grameen Bank, is a Bangladeshi entrepreneur who invented the concept of "social business" in an effort to resolve global problems in healthcare, education and poverty. He has also helped set up Yunus Social Business Centers (YSBC) around the world in order to teach this method.
The SII, which will be part of EPFL’s Vice Presidency for Innovation, will focus on how technology and innovation can be harnessed to make a social impact. "EPFL is known for its ability to attract some of the world’s most talented students. The Social Impact Initiative was designed to instill principles of social entrepreneurship in those students. It will also support them in completing their own social business projects, helping them to become responsible 21st-century engineers, researchers and leaders," says Marc Gruber, EPFL’s Vice President for Innovation. During his visit, Professor Yunus said: "I believe that EPFL is at the forefront of innovation and cutting-edge technology and can be a catalyst for the creation of projects that will have a social impact."