The Becker Friedman Institute’s Development Economics Center is pleased to announce the launch of the Development Innovation Lab at UChicago. The launch will take place during Innovation and Development Week, to be held April 25-29 on the University of Chicago campus.
The Development Innovation Lab (DIL) was founded by Michael Kremer, University Professor in Economics and the College and the Harris School of Public Policy and 2019 Nobel laureate, who joined the University of Chicago in 2020. The mission of this global research lab is to use the tools of economics to develop innovations with the potential to benefit millions of people in low- and middle-income countries. DIL brings researchers in different fields together with governments, firms and non-profit organizations to identify, test, refine and scale innovations.
“The Development Innovation Lab is a vital effort to address some of the most important challenges of our times, and we are fortunate that Michael Kremer will lead this collaborative work,” said University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos. “Michael has played an extremely influential role in shaping the field of development economics with experimental rigor. The Development Innovation Lab will expand that work and its reach, helping our researchers to make an even more positive impact in the world.”
DIL’s team of professional researchers are actively engaged in cutting-edge research, including a new meta-analysis finding that water treatment reduces the odds of child mortality (death before age five) by about 30%. Drawing from this historic work, GiveWell recently announced its decision to recommend a grant of $64.7 million in new spending on water treatment, which could save thousands of lives.
“The University of Chicago’s commitment to development economics, through the launch of the Development Innovation Lab provides a tremendous opportunity to develop new knowledge on ways to address global poverty and ultimately to expand economic opportunity and improve lives,” said Kremer. “I look forward to helping build and grow the development economics community at UChicago and to advancing new research and experimentation to address a range of social and economic challenges.”
Kremer was among the first economists to evaluate interventions in developing countries through randomized control trials. In 1998, he started a project on deworming in Kenya that has since improved the lives of millions of people. By randomizing treatments for intestinal worms at the school level, he and his collaborators found that their research initiative reduced student absenteeism by a quarter—and even carried positive outcomes to neighboring schools. Subsequent work also found that deworming had long-run impacts, leading to higher labor supply for men and more education for women.
In addition to that research, Kremer helped develop the advance market commitment, proposing the idea of a contract that would guarantee a viable market for a costly product. Such commitments have stimulated private investment in vaccine research and the distribution of vaccines for diseases in the developing world.
The Development Economics Center (DEC) will commemorate the DIL’s formal launch through a series of high-profile events during Innovation and Development Week. The program will kick off on Monday, April 25, with a presentation by the World Bank’s Managing Director of the International Finance Corporation, Makhtar Diop, followed by a fireside chat with Michael Kremer. On Tuesday, April 26, Professor Kremer will give a keynote address, “Innovation, Experimentation, and Economics.” The full calendar of events can be found here and participation is open to the public.
Michael Kremer also serves as the Faculty Director of the Development Economic Center. Chris Blattman, the Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies at the Harris School, and Chang-Tai Hsieh, the Phyllis and Irwin Winkelried Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth, serve as Deputy Faculty Directors. The DEC brings together scholars from across the UChicago community for a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to addressing these challenges. The Center also serves as a home for the Development Innovation Lab and the Weiss Fund for Research in Development Economics.
“Michael’s work simultaneously pushes out the frontier of understanding and has had enormous and lasting impacts on people’s wellbeing,” said Michael Greenstone, director of the Becker Friedman Institute and the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor in Economics. “He is the perfect person to lead the Development Economics Center and the Development Innovation Lab, and I know he will catalyze the terrific development economics program at UChicago into even greater heights, with the ultimate beneficiaries being the field of economics and the world.”