Welcome Achal, Isha and Ugo!

by SF Team, 13 July 2016

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Created by alborzshawn (CC BY 2.0)

Twice a year we have the opportunity to award new fellowships to exceptional individuals from a pool of brave applicants who are unafraid to re-imagine the world we live in.

This round saw the addition of an Honorary Steward, Joi Ito, making the final selection from the short-list. We are very excited to now announce the three new Fellows who will be joining the Shuttleworth Foundation fellowship programme in September: Achal Prabhala, Isha Datar and Ugo Vallauri.

Joi brought his unique perspective on openness and technology for social impact, along with his experience as Director of the MIT Media Lab. He has chosen Fellows that he believes have a strong sense of troublemaker about them, but also have the ability to deliver on their stated objectives. This approach ties in closely with the vision and values of the Fellowship and the Foundation.

Whilst each new Fellow was selected on their own merit, we are particularly excited about the set of thematic areas they represent. We believe openness is an important perspective to maintain in intellectual property law, cellular biology and electronics.

Achal Prabhala:

Access to medicines save lives. Unfortunately the right to profit often overrides the right to access. Up to 40% of American medicine patents consist of minor claims with no clinical value. Fake innovation, manifested as bad patents, prevents the manufacturing of affordable versions of these life saving drugs. The cost of intellectual property is directly related to the price of life.

Not in India. India has a brave new patent law which goes back to original intent: allow the patent system to reward true innovation through a limited time of exclusivity, followed by universal access. By setting a higher bar for what constitutes innovation, India has opened up access to generic medicines not only in India, but potentially in other emerging markets.

Enshrining this into law in India is however only the first step, not the last. This law has to be defended against onslaughts from private interests and exported to countries with similar needs such as South Africa and Brazil. This seems like a momentous task, but Achal has a proven track record as a thoughtful and strategic contributor on intellectual property reform and access to medicines.

The Foundation has supported many initiatives to increase access to knowledge. This may be one of the most important efforts with the potential to reset the default on innovation in healthcare.

Isha Datar:

Food insecurity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. If we are to feed the human population sustainably, affordably and nutritiously, we have to rethink the food supply chain. Isha Datar is doing just that, exploring cellular agriculture research towards a post-animal bioeconomy, allowing animal products to be harvested from cell cultures instead of farmed herds.

There are many more questions than answers about the viability and desirability of this approach. It speaks directly to both how we produce and apportion food, and what we fundamentally believe about food. Isha’s work with New Harvest is at the perfect intersection of ethical and practical issues, enabling broader research with a menu of open cell scaffolds on which researchers can build. Her open approach brings a level of accessibility and transparency to this work that has not been seen before.

Cellular agriculture is in its infancy and is only one path among many that could ensure food security. It will require long term investment and exploration to establish it as a viable alternative, or not, to current meat production processes. We believe Isha’s work will make a valuable contribution to opening up possibilities.

Ugo Vallauri:

Ugo Vallauri wants to fix our relationship with electronics, putting people and the planet at the centre.

More and more of the electronics we use are becoming software-enabled. This provides a level of convenience almost unimaginable ten years ago, but what happens when manufacturers stop supporting them? Additionally, all kinds of products, from radios to laptops, are becoming more disposable and less repairable: the current closed ecosystem of electronics design and manufacture leads to faster obsolescence than ever before. Do we ever really own the electronics in our house or office, or are we merely using it until manufacturers stop providing spare parts? Where do electronics go to die, and how much of it can the planet handle?

Those are just some of the questions that have driven Ugo to co-found the Restart Project. Through the repair and reuse events the organisation hosts, he has gathered valuable data on the weaknesses in the current electronics ecosystem. To bring about change, Ugo is engaging consumers, designers, manufacturers and policymakers to help the industry evolve towards more sustainable, open practices.

Ugo’s focus on repair, repurpose and reuse brings a fresh perspective to the maker movement, the Internet of Things, recycling and protecting the environment. It seems easier and more fun to keep creating new things than it is to get to grips with issues of durable designs, sustainable supply chains and effective reuse. Repair augments the original into further and unexpected use. Only openness will make this universally possible.


If you have an innovative idea for social change, at the intersection between technology, knowledge and learning, with openness at the core, please apply for a Fellowship by 1 October 2016.

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