Senior Program Officer (Sanitation Industry & Technology Transition Liaison)

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Seattle, WA, United States 🇺🇸

The Global Growth & Opportunity (GGO) division works to catalyze sustainable transformative change in the face of inequities and market failures, to realize the potential of untapped markets, and to see the economic and social benefits of including everyone. We focus on the areas of Agricultural Development; Financial Services for the Poor; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; and Gender Equality. We seek solutions that are sustainable, transformative, and inclusive with an eye toward applying technology innovations as well as data evidence to drive change in the world’s developing countries.


4.5 billion people worldwide lack access to safely managed sanitation, and millions of these people live in dwellings whose sanitary facilities, if any, are connected to poorly managed septic tanks, cesspools or latrines. Health impacts of poorly managed sanitation are severe, including hundreds of millions of cases of serious oral-fecal illnesses each year, resulting in the preventable deaths of approximately 1.7 million young children, and lifelong stunting and cognitive impairment of tens of millions more children


Traditional sewer networks have historically been the preferred sanitation solution among urban planners and governments. However, this large and centralized infrastructure is often not the most sustainable, nor financially or technically feasible solution in developing countries, and often does not reach informal settlement populations and other vulnerable groups for a range of reasons including sewers not extending beyond central business districts, challenging topography, lack of legal recognition by government, or project cost estimates that don’t include the costs to connect poor households to sewers.


These factors make non-sewered sanitation solutions (NSS), also known as onsite sanitation systems, more context-appropriate and adaptable in many urban contexts. The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WSH) team focuses their efforts and resources towards advocating and developing an end-to-end ecosystem promoting NSS. This is achieved through:

  • Policy, Advocacy, and Communication (PAC) targets our focus regions to promote national policies and increase government accountability for responsible fecal sludge management (FSM). In addition, focus is also placed on advocating for funding innovative non-sewered sanitation interventions globally.
  • Transformative Technology Commercialization (TTC) supports upstream development of innovative technologies that practically address the sanitation challenge and respects the realities of developing world needs. Current focus has shifted towards bringing these technologies to market through diverse and locally relevant commercialization strategies.
  • Urban Sanitation Markets(USM) places emphasis on developing the market and ecosystem for city wide inclusive sanitation services, regulation, and transformative technologies. This includes building the capacity of those responsible for sanitation services to develop appropriate business models and build effective NSS systems and infrastructure. This is achieved through collaboration with national governments, development banks, private sectors, universities, and other supportive organizations.
  • Measurement, Evidence, and Dissemination for Scale (MEDS) is tasked with strengthening the evidence base for successful and innovative sanitation programs, supporting smart measurement and indicators within our grant making, and helping the NSS sector more broadly implement evidenced based programming through dissemination of findings.


As mentioned above, the Transformative Technology Commercialization (TTC) strategy leads the upstream development of innovative technologies and the WSH team has partnered with many universities and industries to develop these technologies as core processing systems or key components for the next generation of safe and sustainable sanitation solutions.  These technologies will enable the development, manufacturing and deployment of Reinvented Toilets (as defined by ISO30500), Omni-Ingestors (inline pit emptying and waste treatment solutions) and Omni-Processors (energy independent fecal sludge processing technologies, as defined by ISO/IWA28); which aim to kill pathogens from human waste and waste streams and turn human waste into marketable products that support an entrepreneur’s business profitability. In addition to the upstream work, the WSH team is also partnering with leading industry and commercial entities around the world to successfully deploy these technologies in communities in developing and developed countries where they will have the most health and economic benefits.


Position Summary & Responsibilities

The Senior Program Officer (SPO), Sanitation Industry and Technology Transition Liaison will be responsible for advancing the transition of core technologies within the WSH portfolio to industry and commercial partners. In collaboration with other colleagues, you will recruit and onboard new industry players, facilitate licensing of intellectual property (where relevant) and the development of Global Access[1] strategies while providing strategic support through the product development life cycle to successful commercial launch. This strategic guidance to industry is aimed at helping commercial partners meet the foundation’s charitable goals for accelerating access to sustainable sanitation services for poor urban communities in developing countries.

The charitable goals of our program depend on the development of a new industry and on these new markets being sustainably profitable for our commercial partners. The imperative for growing this industry comes from the urgency to reduce the rates of death and disease, in these regions, due to poor sanitation and hygiene.

As a strong industry interface, you will lead the WSH team’s efforts to identify the best matches from industry for the leading technologies in the WSH portfolio. You will be expected to:

  • Develop and maintain a database for technologies and intellectual properties of interest to the foundation and commercial partners that may have potential application in the sanitation industry.
  • Maintain and nurture this set of partners while working both internally and externally to facilitate a wide range of business support, market research and analytical projects to encourage private sector technology uptake, transfer and commercialization.


In addition to the above, the SPO will have responsibility to:

  • Develop strategies and lead foundation efforts to identify and successfully engage industry and commercial partners for the commercialization of innovative sanitation technologies. Make appropriate investments to accelerate technology transfer and commitment for commercial product launch.
  • In collaboration with business partners and the foundation legal team, drive industry engagement to successfully develop business plans and go-to-market strategies that satisfy the foundation’s Global Access requirements.
  • Support commercial partners in framing business opportunities for their senior executives.
  • Where relevant, coordinate with university technology transfer offices on negotiations of test licenses and/or commercial licenses to ensure smooth and fast transactions that meet the foundation’s Global Access requirements.
  • Monitor and evaluate commercial partners progress against Global Access requirements to advise on strategy adjustments and commercialization goals.
  • Following closure of technology transfer and licensing agreements, coordinate the transition of key relationships to appropriate colleagues for further product launch and commercialization.
  • Coordinate with team members working on market development to ensure commercial partners have access to relevant market and partnership opportunities.
  • Hire and manage a team of consultants, as appropriate, to lead market studies, industry or technology

    landscape to inform strategy execution.


Reports to: Deputy Director and Lead of the Transformative Technology Commercialization Initiative


Leadership & Culture

We believe that energized people, working well together, fueled by great leadership in an inclusive environment in which they thrive, will do phenomenal things. This includes contributing positively to team culture through collaboration and transparency, empowering others, developing and practicing leadership skills, trusting good intention of others, effective communication, and participating in team building activities.


Core Qualifications, Knowledge & Skills

We are looking for people who enjoy the opportunity of working on complex problems and collectively creating solutions that have the potential for transformative change in the lives of people around the world. You must be prepared to work across a diverse set of disciplines, bridging a wide range of expertise all the while being a team player, with a demonstrated ability to work with flexibility, efficiency and diplomacy in an exciting, challenging environment. The responsibilities of this role require that you should have strong business development and technical leadership skills to build, develop and nurture industry relationships to engage in the technology transfer and commercialization of sanitation innovation. Additionally, we seek:

 Industry-Related Experience & Education:

  • Proven track record of leadership and demonstrated success in technology transfer from early stage technology to market. 
  • A minimum of 10 years’ experience in business development and/or alliance management; including five plus years of experience in technology transfer and/or commercialization roles.
  • Experience working with and/or for university technology transfer offices.
  • Experience negotiating complex multi-party deals.
  • Strongnetworkofseniorindustryleadersinrelevantindustrysectorswith an ability to buildandmanagehighlevelindustry,government,andmultilateralrelationshipsandallianceprograms.
  • Strong preference for those with emerging markets and/or developing country experience.  
  • Familiarity with industrial applications of advanced waste processing technologies for energy recovery, chemical engineering approaches, applied thermodynamic, materials science and advanced biological waste processing technologies for energy conversion.
  • MBA/MSc. in Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Physics or equivalent experience. Advanced degree preferred.

Additional Skills:

  • Knowledge of competitive landscapes and global trends (particularly with regards to sanitation and/or related sectors) and the ability to apply them in support of industry and commercial partner development.
  • Strategicthinkingskills(e.g. can matchfoundationneeds to industrycapabilitiesand technologies).
  • Understanding of international development work constraints as it relates to infrastructure, institutional strengths, available local capacity, etc.
  • Understanding of what it means to address market failures, deal with the social benefit nature of our work, understands the externalities involved in sanitation, etc.
  • Creative problem-solving approach with a tenacious focus on achieving business goals.
  • Demonstrated initiative to solve unstructured problems with creativity, high energy, a positive attitude, and little oversight.
  • Data driven, customer focused, and naturally curious with a willingness to span from strategy development to detailed execution.
  • Strong relationship management skills including experience working with a range and level of clients, colleagues, consultants, and other partners with experience managing and developing strong commercial partnerships and convincing commercial partners to enter a new market/business.
  • Effectivecollaborator andexperienceworkingin a matrixenvironment ispreferred.
  • Oriented toward team collaboration, with the ability to be flexible and adjust to changing circumstances.
  • Excellent listening, verbal and written communication skills to effectively calibrate input and synthesize information to connect with varied and diverse audiences. Ability to communicate clearly and convey complex and often highly technical ideas in easily understood ways.
  • Innovative and open-minded approach to all aspects of work. Ability to question and challenge colleagues, including managers, and partners in a constructive manner.
  • Comfortable in a wide range of cultural, geographic and operational situations, demonstrating culturally sensitive behavior with a diverse range of people.
  • Ability to travel up to 25-35% of time as needs dictate.
  • Commitment to the foundation’s core values, mission and programs with an approach that is consistent with the foundation’s guiding principles while holding oneself to the highest ethical standards.