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Grand Challenges Explorations: One Great Idea, Two Pages

  • Chris Wilson, Apr 28, 2011
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We're on the hunt for innovation. The reason why is simple. Innovation fuels progress. And progress is what's needed to solve the global health and development challenges we face.

Our Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) program funds unconventional and innovative ideas from around the world. Wherever you live, whatever your discipline or level of experience, all it takes is one great idea and two pages to apply for a grant.

Launched in 2008, GCE tackles persistent global health and development challenges by exploring multiple paths to solutions and by doing so quickly. How do we do this? The key is that we fund many smaller short-term grants rather than a few large long-term grants. There are two GCE award rounds per year. Initial one-year grants are for $100,000 (U.S.), and researchers with demonstrated success can apply for additional funding of up to $1 million.

We have given grants to nearly 500 researchers from over 40 countries - including the grants just announced for our current round of GCE awards, Round 6. Grants were awarded in five categories, two of which are new. One of the new categories is focused on eradicating poliovirus, the other on new sanitation technologies. Why are we focused on eradicating poliovirus and developing new sanitation methods in particular?

Amazingly, we're 99 percent of the way toward worldwide poliovirus eradication, and the foundation's top priority is helping to finish the job. In GCE Round 6, we called for proposals for projects to create ways to accelerate, sustain, and monitor eradication. Among the funded projects were those that sought to enhance the degree of mucosal immunity induced by non-live vaccines, or to improve manufacturing efficiency and thus lower costs. Other funded projects seek to develop a diagnostic test to monitor poliovirus strains or a better understanding of the factors controlling poliovirus transmission.

Sanitation is also a critical area of concern for the foundation. Over one million children die each year from diarrheal disease, in many cases as a result of inadequate sanitation. Projects funded in Round 6 sought to create the next generation of sanitation technologies. These projects incorporate diverse, ingenious strategies for economically and hygienically disposing of human waste or converting it into valuable resources: energy and fertilizer, using biological or mechanical treatment methods with low water requirements.

As the GCE program evolves, we will continue to broaden awareness so the program is reaching all who might participate. We are particularly interested in reaching those in developing countries whose direct experience can guide and tailor solutions to be most suitable for those most in need.

If you have a great idea for global health and development, check the GCE website for calls for proposals. Your idea may be just what we are looking for. Do you know someone who has a great idea? Let him or her know about GCE as well. GCE Round 7 is now accepting applications, but hurry - the round closes May 19, 2011.

Thanks to the enthusiastic participation of grantees across the globe, GCE is an innovation engine that shows no signs of slowing down.


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View the Grand Challenges partnership network

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