Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems.
A Family of Initiatives with One Purpose
Grand Challenges 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. Grand Challenges initiatives launch challenges as open requests for grant proposals, refining the process of sourcing innovation over time. Each challenge is an experiment in focusing innovation on making an impact. Each results in a grant program that fosters collaboration to speed impact across the portfolio of projects. Many challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.
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 the diseases and health conditions contributing most to global health inequity. Grand Challenges in Global Health awarded 44 grants - totaling over $450 million for research projects involving scientists in 33 countries – and funded an additional supporting project addressing ethical, social, and cultural issues across the initiative. The first decade of progress yielded diverse types of impact. The initiative has since been renamed 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. Two-page applications are invited from anyone from any discipline and from any type of organization. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded for high-risk, high-reward projects addressing a range of challenges. The initial projects funded have evolved over the first ten years, confirming in diverse ways that great ideas come from everywhere.
A Network of Partners
The Gates Foundation and other funders continue to launch new Grand Challenges initiatives, both independently and in partnership. Partnership initiatives like Grand Challenges Africa and Grand Challenges India anchor the work from the beginning around the local researchers, policymakers, and funders with the knowledge and perspective needed to create, guide, and accelerate transformative solutions to global health and development inequity. Every year, the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting - held in 11 countries in its first 15 years - brings together members of the network of partners from the Grand Challenges family and beyond, fostering collaboration and seeking to build on momentum and accelerate impact.
As the Grand Challenges family of initiatives grows, the world map of awarded grants fills in and the international network of research and funding partnerships expands, helping ensure that everyone receives the full benefit of scientific progress.