About Grand Challenges
Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems.
The Model for Grand Challenges
These initiatives use challenges to focus attention and effort on specific problems, and they can be traced back to the mathematician David Hilbert, who over a century ago defined a set of unsolved problems to spark progress in the field of mathematics.
A Family of Initiatives With One Purpose
In 2003, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched Grand Challenges in Global Health, which came to include multiple funding partners. This initiative focused on 14 major scientific challenges that, if solved, could lead to key advances in preventing, treating, and curing diseases of the developing world. Seeking to engage the world’s most creative minds, Grand Challenges in Global Health awarded 44 grants totaling over $450 million for research projects involving scientists in 33 countries. Funding included an additional supporting project addressing ethical, social, and cultural issues across the initiative.
Solving global challenges is a long-term effort. After a decade of progress, Grand Challenges in Global Health continues as an initiative, but under a new name – Grand Challenges – to reflect the fact that as new challenges have been added, its scope has expanded to encompass global development as well as global health.
In 2007, the Gates Foundation launched Grand Challenges Explorations to engage more of the world’s innovators more quickly. Great ideas come from everywhere. Twice each year, Grand Challenges Explorations invites high-risk, high-reward proposals on a range of challenges.
Two-page applications are submitted online – open to anyone from any discipline, from student to tenured professor, and from any organization, including colleges and universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-profit organizations, and for-profit companies.
Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded, and successful projects have the opportunity to receive follow-on funding of up to $1 million. Winning grants are chosen approximately 5 months from the submission deadline.
A Network of Partners
The Gates Foundation and other funders continue to launch new Grand Challenges initiatives, both independently and in partnership. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Together, they form an expanding network of research and funding partnerships spanning diverse areas of global health and development.
By fostering collaboration and the sharing of lessons learned, this network becomes greater than the sum of its individual members. This is a key goal of the annual Grand Challenges meeting, which brings together parts of the network each year. Visit grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across the global Grand Challenges partnership network.