Food, Water, Waste Research Group
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Ben Robinson

Postgraduate Researcher, Faculty of Engineering



Ben Robinson is a mechanical engineer, adventurer and social entrepreneur, all about living life on the edge of your comfort zone, building sustainable businesses that benefit other people and changing perceptions of International Development - research with a difference.

Research Summary

Half the global population lives on less than $2.50 a day, 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty - on less than $1.25. Many charity / donor-based poverty alleviation approaches have often failed to… read more

Current Research

Half the global population lives on less than $2.50 a day, 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty - on less than $1.25. Many charity / donor-based poverty alleviation approaches have often failed to deliver long-term sustainable solutions. However, by working directly with rural and semi-urban communities, micro-businesses can provide solutions that will meet the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Social Enterprise (SE) is a promising approach that can alleviate poverty through micro-economic development.

If SE is built around an innovative, Appropriate Technology [Engineering] Solution (ATS), a multi-level impact model can be created through the entire value chain; innovation, design, manufacture and distribution to the final user. An ATS comprises simple, locally-made and maintained technologies which solve everyday engineering problems. Examples include: building-earthquake proof, low-cost, high-quality housing using recycled plastic bottles or creating local entrepreneurship through an improved cookstove which can produce charcoal. These solutions can quickly alleviate poverty whilst also being focussed on long term developmental aims.

This project aims to create, test and refine the ATS model which can then be used across the developing world to leverage long-term sustainable change through Social Enterprise. Building on existing links with Practical Action, Tearfund, Engineers Without Borders, Enactus, Live to Love, Badur Foundation and Escap+aid, this model will be tested in a number or pre-selected countries including Nepal, Hungary, Ghana, Tanzania and Kenya, to test its flexibility and adaptability. The subjects of research are members of rural/semi-urban communities who are looking to increase their weekly income, develop a product or look to alleviate their own poverty.

The ATSs used will be needs-driven, bottom-up solutions developed in conjunction with local communities to ensure that is a sustainable, scalable but most importantly, solving a real world engineering problem in the community. The data will be collected through a series of field visits. These field visits will be key in designing, implementing and evaluating the ATS.

As an example, in Ghana 70% of the countries GDP is made up from small or micro enterprises and account for 92% of the business, there development into larger businesses can be attributed to access around the appropriate technology needed to scale efficiently.

This project has already received funding from the University of Nottingham for its work in Nepal through the Energy for Life fund with Dr. Mike Clifford. We designed the novel appropriate technology cooking solution for this project then with the support of the university implemented and evaluated the project.

Food, Water, Waste Research Group

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 82 32502