It seems incredible that a small company in Brianza, specializing in systems for the management of water and mud, has attracted the attention of one of the richest men on the planet. But it happened. Through its foundation, Bill Gates has invested over one million dollars in the Brianza-based Idee e Prodotti srl, created in 1984 by Vincenzo Di Leo, former worker, 72 years old and 4 employees. Its story is told by Corriere della Sera.
It all starts in 2016, at the Ifat in Munich, a fair on environmental technologies. Di Leo exhibits an innovative pump to empty the latrines. A representative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation notes this. The businessman from Cavenago di Brianza explains how it works. Its pump is particular because it can also suck up debris, and consumes little energy.
Thus comes the first investment, in 2016: 640 thousand dollars “to develop, test and validate a pump capable of effectively managing garbage, for emptying latrines in developing countries”, as we still read in the investment database of the foundation. In March 2019, another 400 thousand dollars arrive “to design an accessible and durable pumping system”.
What the foundation is asking is to “lighten” the pump, from the initial 300 kilos to 70, so that it can also be carried by arms. Di Leo worked on it for six months and reached his goal. The prototype is ready. But weight reduction is not the only request. It will take more action, perhaps more investment, before the pump can reach African countries.
The Microsoft founder has been engaged for years in philanthropic activities and projects in support of Africa and developing countries. His foundation, also controlled by his wife Melinda and Warren Buffett, is considered the largest private foundation in the world, with an endowment of over 50 billion. Among many goals, Gates is aiming for a “sanitation revolution” that could improve the lives of millions of people. In recent years it has also invested in the development of innovative toilets that do not need water, electricity or infrastructure to function.