Grand Challenges Explorations Initiatives

One of the most inventive programs created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the Grand Challenges Explorations initiative. GCE is a grant program that encourages bold concepts designed to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people. In March, the foundation called for anyone with inventive ideas to apply for Round 11 of the initiative; 58 projects across 18 countries were accepted for funding.

This year, the Gates Foundation will invest $8.1 million in innovative ideas that will address global health and development problems. Each project will receive $100,000 to conduct their studies and experiments. Chris Wilson, director of Global Health Discovery and Translational Sciences at the Gates Foundation, said in a statement, “The impressive concepts from around the world…are pushing the envelope when it comes to innovation to tackle ongoing challenges for the poor using approaches ranging from agricultural development to communications for social good.”

One category potential recipients could submit their ideas under was “Labor Saving Innovations for Women Smallholder Farms.” Grantees will be working to find holistic solutions to boost productivity on smallholder farms. Some projects accepted for funding include:

  • Mobilized Solar-Powered Grain Driers that would double the storage life of harvested crops to reduce spoilage
  • Electric Multi-Crop Threshers that would enable farmers to thresh their crops faster and save hours of manual labor
  • Drip Irrigation Tubes, made from recycled plastic shopping bags, to be used by smallholder farmers in developing countries

A second topic for submission was “Aid is Working. Tell the World.” Inventors working in this field will seek new approaches to communications that would motivate wealthy nations to support foreign aid investment. A few of the projects in this category include:

  • The BeHere-BeThere Project, which will use location-based network applications and local retailers to connect consumers with aid projects
  • Mobilizing the Unheard Voices of Aid Recipients- a campaign to collect 10,000 personal narratives of aid recipients in rural India to be shared through social media sites
  • The Hactivating Development Aid project, which will develop a crowdsourcing program that would target young people around the world to educate them about global development challenges and solutions

Finally, GCE will also be awarding additional funding to projects that have showed promise from previous GCE rounds. These are more inventive initiatives and include:

  • Vaginal contraceptive gel that would use nanoparticles to inhibit the mobility of sperm tails
  • Acoustical Newborn Diagnostic Tool, a software-based diagnostic tool which analyzes a newborn’s cry to detect serious medical conditions
  • Production of more potent vaccines with increased heat stability to reduce the need for refrigerated storage
  • Development of a blood protein test for preeclampsia in pregnant women

Since its inception in 2008, GCE has funded over 800 grants in 52 nations. Applications for the next round of Grand Challenges Explorations will open up in September.

– Allana Welch

Sources: Gates Foundation, Gates Foundation – Media 
Photo: The Guardian