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Humanity & Inclusion wins innovation award for 3D prosthetics and demining drones

Press release | London, 24th September 2020, 9:30 GMT

Humanity & Inclusion (HI) has been at the forefront of many of the innovations and initiatives that have revolutionised humanitarian aid, ever since it was founded almost four decades ago. From telerehabilitation and the 3D-printing of prostheses, to the use of drones to locate anti-personnel mines, the organisation explores innovative solutions adapted to humanitarian needs and believes innovation should be as widely accessible and beneficial as possible. Humanity & Inclusion’s dedicated approach to innovation was recognised on 24th September when the European Union Horizon Prize 2020 honoured Humanity & Inclusion with two awards, for its Odyssey2025 project using drones in mine clearance operations and its ‘Tele Rehabilitation For All’ project using 3D technology to scan and print prosthetic limbs.

Telerehabilitation and 3d prosthetics

Back in 1982, when services were non-existent and the international community had no expertise or solutions for the thousands of landmine amputees on the Thai/Cambodian border, Humanity & Inclusion pioneered the development of local low-cost prosthetics, using the refugees’ own skills and locally-available materials such as bamboo, leather, wood and tyres. Humanity & Inclusion was the first humanitarian organisation to develop simple and cost-effective orthopaedic devices adapted to the local context.

Today, Humanity & Inclusion is the first organisation in the world to combine telerehabilitation and the production of 3D prostheses. Humanity & Inclusion provides physiotherapy sessions by video link and produces prostheses remotely for amputees by scanning stumps and 3D-printing prostheses.

A person with disabilities who needs a prosthesis has to travel to a rehabilitation centre for treatment by professionals at each care stage. There are few or no centres in many parts of the world. Armed conflicts can also restrict travel. We have developed our telerehabilitation activities since 2016 to provide rehabilitation care to people who are isolated or unable to access services. By using digital technology combined with 3D printing, we can now produce and supply high-quality prostheses and orthoses for lower cost and provide rehabilitation care to people we were unable to access previously.” says Isabelle Urseau, Director of the Rehabilitation Division for Humanity & Inclusion.

Demining drones

In 1992, in Cambodia, a country heavily contaminated by anti-personnel mines, Humanity & Inclusion trained manual deminers and launched humanitarian demining activities. Four years later, committed campaigning by HI and other organisations led to the adoption of the Ottawa Convention - the first international treaty to ban a conventional weapon!

With its partner Mobility Robotics, Humanity & Inclusion is now testing the use of drones in mine clearance operations in Chad. It is the first organisation capable of locating mines buried in the ground using drones equipped with infrared cameras.

At the end of 2019, Humanity & Inclusion achieved a demining world-first when it successfully located mines buried in the desert using drones equipped with infrared cameras. We can also map vast areas of contaminated land in record time. Using conventional methods, it used to take weeks to investigate a suspected hazardous area. These new methods will accelerate clearance and land release for local populations." says Emmanuel Sauvage, Director of the armed violence reduction Division for Humanity & Inclusion.


Humanity & Inclusion has continuously improved its actions and revised its humanitarian programmes. The organisation develops solutions to humanitarian challenges based on the latest discoveries and new uses of technology. Humanity & Inclusion believes all innovations should have an immediate practical application and be simple and easy to adopt for local actors in countries around the world.

At Humanity & Inclusion, innovation has an ethical imperative to provide real and effective aid to vulnerable people, including people with disabilities, children, single women, and older people, and help them live in dignity.

Humanity & Inclusion was founded in 1982 to support Cambodians who had found refuge in Thailand. A great many of these refugees were mine victims. To orthopedically fit amputees in this region without suitable workshops, we invented bamboo prostheses. The Tele Rehabilitation For All project and our use of 3D technology reflects this desire to improve the quality and impact of our interventions using accessible technologies. Innovation is not just for specialists. It should be widely accessible. We have decided to continue along this path by using the Horizon prize money to set up a humanitarian fund for innovation.” explains Manuel Patrouillard, Global Managing Director for Humanity & Inclusion.


Interviews available upon request with Humanity & Inclusion’s experts.

The Horizon Prize

  • The European Union Horizon Prize for Affordable High-Tech for Humanitarian Aid was launched in 2020. It is divided into five categories: shelter and related assistance; water, hygiene, and sanitation; energy; health and medical care; and other humanitarian assistance (open category). Each category has a fund of one million euros and is awarded to an initiative that addresses major humanitarian challenges.
  • Humanity & Inclusion has been awarded two of the five prizes and is the only organisation to receive two awards. It has been recognised for its Odyssey2025 project on the use of drones in demining operations in the "Other humanitarian assistance” category and for its pilot telerehabilitation project in the "Health and medical care” category.

The two projects from Humanity & Inclusion awarded prizes by the European Union:

  • Funded by the Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD), the Odyssey2025 project ran from September 2018 to March 2019. The drones were tested in Chad, in collaboration with Mobility Robotics, where HI carries out demining operations, supervised by the National High Commission for Demining (HCND) as part of the “Support for the demining, development, and social protection of vulnerable people” project (PRODECO) funded by the European Union and supported by the Chadian government. Testing was made possible with the support of the European Union and the availability of an operational testing ground.
  • Since 2016, Humanity & Inclusion has conducted four scientific studies on telerehabilitation and 3D prosthesis printing. It has worked with leading universities, private companies, and NGOs. The research was based on clinical trials and pilot projects in six different countries, including Uganda and Togo to rapidly produce affordable, high-quality prostheses in a range of contexts.

 3D Technology: In Brief

    • A lightweight and easy-to-use scanner makes it simple to take accurate measurements of the limb(s) requiring an orthopaedic device.
    • A CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing Design) file is then created.
    • Digital modelling software is used to modify and adapt the device to be printed according to the patient’s needs.
    • The 3D file obtained is sent to a specific printer which solidifies the material layer by layer, to obtain the final device.

About Humanity & Inclusion

Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion is an international NGO working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. With donor support, we work tirelessly alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable groups to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights. In 2019, through 441 projects in 61 countries, our donors provided direct support to 2.8 million people.

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