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Grand Challenges Explorations: Bold Ideas From Around the World to Improve and Save Lives

  • Steven Buchsbaum, Sep 8, 2014

What do an irrigation tube made from a plastic bag, a cow that smells like a person and a village surrounded by stinky socks have in common? These innovative ideas, and hundreds of others like them, have the potential to overcome roadblocks and help solve some of the toughest challenges in global health and development – and all are part of our Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) program.

Part of the broader Grand Challenges family of initiatives, Grand Challenges Explorations is now in its seventh year providing seed money for innovative solutions to a variety of complex problems. Anyone, anywhere in the world can apply for an initial grant of up to $100,000 through a simple two page application form. If the initial phase is promising, we could invest up to an additional $1 million.

Through Grand Challenges, we work with our partners to support bold ideas from around the world that have the power to improve and save lives. We identify roadblocks to progress and seek out creative solutions to overcome them. To date, the global family of Grand Challenges programs have funded more than 2000 projects in more than 80 countries.

In the past, GCE has funded all sorts of projects – whether it's developing an easy-to-apply male condom, developing touch-screen patient feedback tools to improve reproductive health services or designing a wristband that changes color to alert moms about when their kids should be immunized. Some of the most interesting applications come from someone working outside their discipline - a physicist with an idea for improving wheat yields, or a car mechanic with a revolutionary device to ease births in low-income settings.

We're excited to announce that GCE is now accepting applications for six topics.

Topics for Grand Challenges Explorations Round 14:

  • Enabling Universal Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments: We seek new solutions that promote the use of mobile phone-based payments by smaller merchants, service providers, and others serving the poor.
  • Reducing Childhood Deaths from Pneumonia: We seek new ways to reduce pneumonia fatalities through timely, effective treatment of children.
  • Reducing Malaria Transmission by Outdoor Mosquitoes: We seek to reduce malaria parasite transmission that occurs by mosquito bites outdoors, which is not addressed by the insecticide treated nets and indoor sprays that are effective in preventing transmission within houses at night.
  • Supporting New Mosquito-control Approaches: We seek new ways to capture and test mosquitos and grow them in the laboratory to support new approaches for controlling mosquito-borne diseases.
  • Measuring Brain Development and Gestational Age: We seek better ways to measure cognitive development and gestational age, which are critical for designing and assessing the effectiveness of strategies targeting children's healthy growth and development. This topic is being undertaken in partnership with Grand Challenges Canada's Saving Brains initiative.
  • Integrating Community-based Interventions: We seek new ideas for integrating existing mass drug administration platforms for neglected tropic diseases with other community-based health interventions or services, with the goal of increasing the efficiency and impact of both types of programs.

Applications for this round are now open, and will stay open until November 12, 2014.

This call happens at an exciting time. We are just a month away from our 10th annual Grand Challenges meeting, where we'll embark on the next phase of Grand Challenges which will include new challenges and new opportunities for funding. More than anything else, the Grand Challenges model is about bringing the world's brightest minds together in partnership to solve the world's most pressing health and development issues.

We're looking forward to seeing your ideas – and maybe you, at next year's meeting.

If you'd like to stay updated, sign up.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit www.grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.
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