Bill Gates has already reinvented computers, and now the Microsoft founder has his sights set on a few other areas — condoms and toilets.
Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the software giant has fostered initiatives aimed at coming up with novel solutions to some of the world’s most common problems. Last summer it was the toilet, as the foundation called on inventors to come up with a cleaner and more energy efficient model to serve the 2.5 billion people in the world without access to sanitary facilities.
Now Bill Gates is calling on inventors to help come up with a more effective condom. The foundation is offering a $100,000 startup grant to anyone who can design “the next generation condom that significantly preserves or enhances pleasure” and promotes “regular use.”
The measure ties in to Bill Gates’ efforts to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS. The problem is not lack of condoms, as they are available even in third-world nations. But the foundation says people are often reluctant to use them because they believe condoms reduce pleasure.
“Male condoms are cheap, easy to manufacture, easy to distribute, and available globally, including in resource-poor settings, through numerous well-developed distribution channels,” the foundation says, adding that condoms that take away from pleasure create “a trade-off that many men find unacceptable.”
The Gates Foundation has a few advantages in its quest for a better condom. For one, it carries the built-in marketing appeal of Bill Gates himself, giving the initiative added visibility. It also is able to bypass some of the difficulties of academic research, which can often get stuck between the invention phase and distribution.
“Large-scale human clinical trials are not required,” the foundation noted. “Manufacturing capacity, marketing, and distribution channels are already in place.”
Bill Gates focus on the condom and toilet could also blaze a new path for innovation, one that is funded not by the government or corporate entities but instead at a true grassroots level.