Participants have lunch on the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting on January 26, 2011 in Davos. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Let’s dive in, shall we?

1) What happens at the World Economic Forum’s IdeasLab?

The World Economic Forum has an IdeasLab, where academic leaders gather to discover solutions to the world’s long-standing and emerging problems in health, the environment and energy resources.

The Web page features video interviews with some of the IdeasLab participants and interactive graphics and slide shows. The site gives visitors a change to explore a range of potential solutions, such as microinsurance to protect Haiti’s poor and new social networks to promote a global social good. Among those interviewed are Henrich Greve, professor of entre­pre­neur­ship at INSEAD, on the time lag between innovation and adoption, and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, on what can be done to prevent and cure chronic disease.

(World Economic Forum)

2) Bill Gates: We need to re-invent the toilet

Bill Gates speaks at Tthe Economic Club of Washington, DC on March 8 , 2011. (Jeffrey MacMillan/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

But why the toilet? As one of the least attractive aspects of life in need of further research and development, sanitation is among the areas that receives the least amount of attention from philanthropic groups. With more than 2.6 billion people around the world lacking proper sanitation and 1.5 million children dying annually as a result of diarrhea-related disease, the argument in favor improving the toilet is a strong one.

The foundation hopes that, before the end of the year, 50 to 60 groups will be involved in researching an improved toilet that can dispose of human waste efficiently, if not convert it into an energy source.

(Associated Press)

3) Bloomberg to Silicon Valley: Watch out, we’re coming.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new science and engineering campus that, he says, will allow New York City to not only compete with Silicon Valley for tech dominance, but surpass it as well. The carrot that Bloomberg is using to attract prospective takers is an attractive one: nearly free real estate and up to $100 million in infrastructure upgrades to any university, institution or consortium that commits to placing a world-class technology or engineering campus on Governors Island.

Existing institutions in the U.S. and abroad are already expressing interest. Bloomberg, an engineer and entrepreneur, argues that schools like MIT and Stanford are the fuel that drives business and job creation in Silicon Valley, and that a similar institution in New York could have the same effect.

(Associated Press)

4) Enter Microsoft’s innovation garage

It’s almost cliche to talk about the guy in his garage — or the girl in hers -- working furiously on a new startup. The garage-as-innovation-locus is not unique to the college grad or dropout. Microsoft has one, too.

Microsoft’s garage comes with a few significant bells and whistles, such as a 3D printer, soldering bench and a laser cutter. There’s also a “science fair,” where enterprising employees compete to be able to set off “Mt. St. Awesome.” The fairs are complete with poster-board mounted presentations and judges in white lab coats.


5) There is an all-female Hamptons Hackathon for Humanity

There’s been a lot of news about the black-hat hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous. But not all hacking is illegal. Sometimes it can be philanthropic. That’s what a group of women showed during a gathering in the Hamptons, organized by the founders of Girl Develop It, an online gathering place for women working and interested in computer programming.

Photographer Rebecca Greenfield chronicled one day of the hackathon, which was conducted in conjunction with the entre­pre­neur­ship startup Jumpthru. The gathering, which took place at a cedar-shingled mansion complete with pool, food and masseuse, was formally called Hamptons Hackathon for Humanity, and included 16 technologists, venture capitalists and computer programmers. The finished product was an interactive to help prevent human trafficking in New York City. You can see it at

(Fast Company)