What’s Next for the Grand Challenges?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Innovative solutions take 15 years to reach their full potential. For the “grand challenges” model of development, now over a decade old, that means the clock is ticking.

How long does it take to bring promising ideas from zero to scale? Ask those closest to the “grand challenge” model — a funding platform for crowdsourced innovations in global health and development — and they’ll balk at such a generalization. Then, more often than not, they’ll find their way to the same magic number — 15 years.

Developers in the health sector were the first to notice that the drug pipeline took about 15 years to produce new pharmaceuticals and vaccines, said Peter Singer, head of Grand Challenges Canada and one of the founders behind the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges — considered one of the first such platforms in global development.

Now approaching the 15-year mark, a handful of those early innovations are almost fully operational, Singer told Devex.

But are a handful of success stories enough to warrant the millions invested in grand challenges worldwide? As the the concept of the grand challenges inches closer to its own 15th birthday, some feel it’s time to ask: Is the model working?

Nobel laureate Harold Varmus, another early architect of the grand challenges model and now the director of the National Institute of Health, posed the question at the grand challenges’ 10th anniversary event in Seattle in 2013.

Source: Devex (link opens in a new window)

Health Care, Technology