Innovation and Collaboration for Social Change: Dean Kamen’s Slingshot

Collaboration is often to innovation what gasoline is to a cars internal combustion engine.  Without the gas the engine is still a great technological innovation – it just won’t go anywhere.

Dean Kamen, famous for the invention of the Segway and the portable dialysis machine, makes a point of investing his time and money to create technologies that can improve the quality of people’s lives.  His latest revelation the “Slingshot” – a water purification system that can take nearly any polluted water source including urine and toxic waste and distill it into safe, clean drinking water –  could very well solve the worlds fresh water shortage and save hundreds of thousands of lives.  The power source for this dazzling distiller is perhaps even more impressive.  A modified Stirling engine it can generate energy from cow dung to grass clippings and produces enough energy every day to purify enough water for 100 people and light 70 light bulbs.  The entire Slingshot system was tested in the field for a full 6 months of operation and went off without a hitch.  With no filters, membranes and relatively simple mechanical parts it is estimated that the Slingshot could operate perpetually for 5 years without requiring any maintenance – just deliver and use!

Now for the tricky part – that’s right the 10 years spent perfecting the design was not the tricky part – finding the right collaborator to mass produce the units for distribution.  As a technology with almost exclusive benefits to the third world (for now anyway) investors perceive the production of this technology to be financially risky.  Until Kamen can find a company that can utilize parts or all of this technology for profit sales of a product in developed nations the Slingshot project is at a stand still.  There has been some interest from a small electric car producer, Tata in India to use the Stirling engine technology, however, this small investment is not enough for mass production and distribution of the Slingshot.  Evidently, turning a spectacular invention into a commodity has become the major roadblock for Kamen’s humanitarian technology.

This entry was posted in Collaboration, Innovation, Leadership, Technology and tagged , , , , by John. Bookmark the permalink.

About John

“John Abele is a pioneer and leader in the field of less-invasive medicine, For more than four decades, John has devoted himself to innovation in health care, business and solving social problems.” He is retired Founding Chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation. John holds numerous patents and has published and lectured extensively on the technology of various medical devices and on the technical, social, economic, and political trends and issues affecting healthcare. His major interests are science literacy for children, education, and the process by which new technology is invented, developed, and introduced to society. Current activities include Chair of the FIRST Foundation which works with high school kids to make being science-literate cool and fun, and development of The Kingbridge Centre and Institute, a conferencing institution whose mission is to research, develop, and teach improved methods for interactive conferencing: problem solving, conflict resolution, strategic planning, new methods for learning and generally help groups to become “Collectively intelligent.” He lives with his wife and two dogs in Shelburne, Vermont.”

One thought on “Innovation and Collaboration for Social Change: Dean Kamen’s Slingshot

  1. It is frustrating to see that such a valuable technology can’t leave the testing stage because the need for greed. Just doing a good thing to help people in need is not enough. Those that control the wealth are not willing to part with some to help those without any. Thank you for bringing this issue up in your blog and hopefully this message will continue to be passed along. Hopefully a charity with funds for just such an asset will step forward to Mr. Kamen.

Leave a Reply to DenisGiles Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *