Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today released his second annual letter — a personal appraisal of the foundation’s efforts to date and how innovation impacts priorities of the foundation.
Gates is optimistic that, despite the tough economy, a combination of scientific innovations and strong partners working on behalf of the world’s poorest people will continue to improve the human condition.
“Although innovation is unpredictable,” says Gates, “there is a lot that governments, private companies, and foundations can do to accelerate it. Rich governments need to spend more on research and development, for instance, and we need better measurement systems in health and education to determine what works.”
Throughout his letter, Gates highlights innovations that are saving or improving lives and expanding opportunity. In the developing world, vaccines are thwarting preventable disease in children, new tools are aiding in the fight against malaria and HIV, and improved seeds and farming techniques are increasing agricultural productivity. In the United States, innovations are helping educators improve teaching and learning so that high school students graduate ready for success and are prepared to earn postsecondary degrees.
Gates defines the foundation’s role as investing in innovations that would otherwise go unfunded — including some that may ultimately fail. He discusses the foundation’s support of a range of innovations — from low to high risk, some with timeframes as long as 15 years — aimed at combating disease, hunger, and poverty in the developing world and improving education in the United States.
Since its inception in 1994, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $21 billion in grants. As of September 30, 2009 the foundation’s endowment was valued at $34.17 billion.