Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme

Innovation Labs

The Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) Innovation Labs aims to identify and fund innovative solutions to disaster preparedness through a network of labs based around the world in countries prone to disaster.

Humanitarian surge training Bangkok 2016 © ActionAid

Latest news

Latest news

About the programme

Jointly managed by Start and CDAC Networks, the DEPP Innovation Labs is a two-year £10 million programme, funded by UK Aid, which has set up a network of labs to identify and support the development of innovative solutions to disaster preparedness.


The labs operate primarily from a ‘bottom up’ perspective, identifying areas of innovation which come directly from disaster affected communities and the organisations working closely with them.


The areas of innovation supported include, for example;


- New models for organisations to collaborate with each other

- New applications of information and communications and technology

- Use of new building materials and designs

- New approaches for disaster affected communities to communicate with each other and to plan collaboratively

- Locally led early warning systems

- Development of improved emergency response materials.


The programme aims to promote cross-sector partnerships with a range of private sector, research, civil society and/or government organisations and create new opportunities for learning and collaboration and potential avenues to scale emerging areas of innovation.


Labs have been set up in countries prone to disaster, in Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya, and the Philippines.


Each lab is embedded in vulnerable communities to ensure that a user-centred design process creates solutions that work for local communities.


The Labs


Each lab has designed a process to identify and foster promising  innovations. Once identified, the labs provide support to teams of innovators to help them to overcome the barriers that slow down or prevent them from implementing and scaling up new approaches to emergency preparedness.


The types of support  include, for example:


- Establishing mentoring relationships

- Leadership development

- Business skills development

- Provision of office space, communications facilities and administrative support

- Administration of a small grants fund to provide initial financial support

- Supporting the process of accessing larger amounts funding where appropriate



The labs also encourage innovation teams to engage with each other, to learn from one another and to link up with a broader community of like-minded organisations. This could include activities such as:


- Organising opportunities for organisations to present and critique each other’s business plans and strategies

- Organising and hosting networking events

- Facilitating exchange visits with organisations supported by the other DEPP labs or similar relevant organisations

- Linking up with the DEPP global labs partner organisations and network of advisors



The Bangladesh Lab aims to examine and improve the direct impact of the built environment on emergencies. The lab seeks to find and support ideas that build safer communities, and being based out of Korail, Bangladesh’s largest slum, it will ensure ideas are led by the local community. The lab is hosted by Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, a Bangladeshi community hospital and medical college and a consortium of partners.

Consortium partners in Bangladesh include SEEDS Technical Services; University of New South Wales; Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED); and the Asian Disaster Reduction and Response Network, a civil society network of 56 national NGOs from across the Asian region.



The Philippines TUKLAS Lab will identify innovative ideas and entrepreneurs across the country, to nurture, test and scale promising innovations.  Managed by Plan International, the TUKLAS consortium** comprises of four regional labs in the most disaster affected areas, keeping the priorities of the community at their core and encouraging ideas that meet the needs of vulnerable groups. The lab will give small grants to proposals selected in collaboration with community members.

Tuklas means “discover” in Tagalog and the acronym TUKLAS Tungo sa Kahandaan ng Pilipinas means “Towards Preparedness in the Philippines”. Consortium partners in this lab include Citizens’ Disaster Response Center, Action Against Hunger and Care. More information is on the TUKLAS Facebook page.



Adeso, iHub and Mastercard (AIM) Labs, known as the Maarifa Kona,  are partnering in Kenya to strengthen rural communities’ resilience to recurring drought – to enable them to prepare, respond and recover. The AIM consortium uses a human-centered approach to innovation by working hand in hand with local communities in the counties of Marsabit and Garissa.



Mahali Lab, run by International Rescue Committee***, is set-up toidentify and solve challenges posed by long-term displacement of people, caused primarily by the war in Syria. A series of “design challenges” will enable communities to propose potential solutions to problems faced by vulnerable communities throughout Jordan.  The theme of each challenge is determined through consultation with Syrian refugees, leaders within host communities, and community-based organisations.  A community review board selects a small number of innovators to receive specialised support to fully develop their solutions. The IRC will invest in and support the most promising projects.

The Mahali Lab is managed by the Airbel Center, the innovation unit at the IRC. More information is on Rescue.org and Medium.

Global partners

The Global Lab Partners are envisaged as a key component of the Start Networks Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Innovation Lab Programme. The contribution of their skills, experiences and resources to a range of locally led, early stage emergency preparedness projects in the four disaster affected countries, will be invaluable in helping them achieve sustainability, impact and where appropriate scale.


The partners will be able to interface with projects via the lab’s web platform and engage with them on a range of problem solving and creative processes as they develop their projects, organisations and businesses. The goal of the process is to enable locally led projects to have greater impact as a result of the connections made and the linkages and business opportunities that arise from collaboration. As a result, communities will be more prepared to face recurrent emergencies which will have lower impact and lead to less disruption and loss of life.


Why Become a Global Lab Partner ?

Be part of a community of likeminded innovators working towards reducing the suffering and loss of life in humanitarian disasters.

- Presented with opportunities to be at the frontline of field-based disaster preparedness innovation.

- Involved, from start to finish, of the latest initiatives for disaster preparedness that are ready to take to scale.

- Recognition as a partner through all DEPP Lab communications - both internally to the CDAC Network and Start Network (69 organisations in total) and externally to the public and to supporters of the networks.


Read more about becoming a global lab partner


Email us at DEPPLabs@startnetwork.org.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Click here to read the DEPP Labs FAQ