Connecting Designers and Makers with Autodesk Tools and Support for Success

How Autodesk Research and the Autodesk Foundation collectively equip makers to unlock innovation for impact

Alli O’Connell and Erin Arnold


The mission of Autodesk Research is to explore, prepare, and lead. As part of this charter, members of the Research organization work with companies, nonprofits, and students around the world to uncover new ideas and support entrepreneurs at all stages via the Outsight Network.

The Autodesk Foundation was established in 2014 to support the design and creation of innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. Built into the Autodesk Foundation’s approach to philanthropy is the unique opportunity to bring Autodesk resources to bear—ranging from technology to industry expertise—to support scaling innovations that transform Autodesk industries to be more sustainable, equitable, and resilient.

Whether providing physical spaces to design and make, technical support for research projects, or financial support, Autodesk Research and the Autodesk Foundation together support exceptional people and organizations to do extraordinary things. Meet the startups and nonprofits that lean into Autodesk’s expertise to advance impact.

MASS Design Group: Promoting justice and human dignity through architecture and design

MASS Design Group researches, builds, and advocates for architecture that promotes justice and human dignity. Its team of 150 architects, landscape architects, engineers, builders, furniture designers, writers, filmmakers, and researchers representing 20 countries work together to expand access to design that is purposeful, healing, and hopeful.

As part of the Autodesk Foundation Health & Resilience portfolio since 2014, MASS Design Group has received grant funding as well as technical training, access to Engineering for Change Fellows, and pro bono expertise.

MASS Design Group is now working with Autodesk Research on measuring the impact of one of its latest built projects, a 142-unit affordable housing community for older adults in the Boston area. This project will collect metrics related to residents’ experience of social cohesion, connection to nature, and the environmental performance of the building.

“We’re excited to work with Autodesk Research to leverage their technology and research tools. Our partnership will enable us to measure the impact of our housing design in supporting the health and well-being of residents.”
— Francisco Colom Jover, Senior Architect, MASS Design Group


Image courtesy of MASS Design Group

Heirloom: Slowing climate warming with carbon dioxide removal

To meet the guiding goal of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, we need to not only limit greenhouse gas emissions but also aggressively remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Heirloom builds direct air capture (DAC) technology that permanently removes CO2 from the atmosphere, with a real path towards removing 1 billion tons of CO2 by 2035. By harnessing the natural properties of limestone, Heirloom’s facilities offer the quickest pathway to permanent, low-cost CO2 removal at a billion-ton scale.

Heirloom receives funding from the Autodesk Foundation, is a member of the Outsight Network, and uses donated Autodesk software solutions. Inventor, AutoCAD Electrical, and CFD help Heirloom design DAC devices that can withstand natural forces and achieve durability and cost goals.

“Our technology rapidly accelerates the natural processes that enable limestone to absorb CO2 from the air from a timespan of years to days.”
— Maryam Nassir, Controls Engineer, Heirloom


Image courtesy of Heirloom

KickStart: Irrigation tools to build profitable, climate-resilient businesses

KickStart develops and mass produces high-quality irrigation tools for farmers in Africa. KickStart’s farmer-centric “MoneyMaker” branded irrigation pumps have enabled farmers to directly generate more than $1.4 billion in new farm profits and wages, bringing 1.5 million people out of poverty.

KickStart, which has been in the Autodesk Foundation Health & Resilience portfolio since 2017, has received funding in addition to pro bono support and donated Autodesk software.

With support from the Autodesk Foundation and Autodesk Technology Center in San Francisco, the KickStart team developed a new low-cost, durable, highly efficient, manually operated irrigation pump for small-scale farmers. KickStart has also nearly completed the development of an innovative, low-cost, modular solar pump and is conducting early-stage feasibility work on other irrigation tools, including lowest-cost rainwater catchments for farmers with no access to shallow ground or surface water.

“KickStart’s design team is faced with the huge challenge of developing high-quality, long-lasting yet affordable products for our cash-constrained customers. Harnessing Autodesk’s advanced software and resources has simplified our product design and development and enabled our teams to share ideas easily and quickly.”
— Albert Lukhale, Design Engineer, Product Intelligence & Development, KickStart


Image courtesy of Daniel Kagia Kimani, KickStart

Alli O’Connell is Head of Marketing and Communications, Autodesk Foundation.

Erin Arnold is a senior writer with Autodesk Research

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