Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development

USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, DFID, and KOICA have joined together to launch Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development, to find the tools and approaches to help the mothers and newborns during their most vulnerable hours.
We seek groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in poor, hard-to-reach communities around the time of delivery. 
This is the period when the majority of maternal and newborn deaths occur and the population that has been the most difficult to reach.
We seek innovative ideas that can leapfrog conventional approaches in three main domains: (1) technology; (2) service delivery; and (3) “demand side” innovation that empowers pregnant women and their families to practice healthy behaviors and be aware of and access health care during pregnancy, childbirth and the early postnatal period, especially the first two days after birth.

Seeking Breakthroughs

Significant breakthroughs in innovation often come about when new ideas and disciplines are applied to long-entrenched problems.  New technologies and approaches transform insurmountable development challenges into solvable problems. To harness this ingenuity, we encourage partnerships that bring together diverse expertise from non-traditional partners. And to foster sustainability, we encourage the private sector to bring their expertise and experience to bear on these problems. 

How It Works

Six partners - USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada,  DFID, and KOICA -  came together to support this single challenge. The World Bank is also an affiliate of this program. Projects will be jointly selected through a unified application process. Successful innovators will be managed  independently by one of two partners and funded and supported collectively as a community of innovators by all six partners.

Building a Community of Innovators

Partners will work with this community to foster learning and continued innovation.  Awardees will receive support and networking assistance from each of the partners, engage with other innovators, and participate in high-level meetings including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Grand Challenge meetings.

Types of Awards

We invest in a portfolio of projects.  Through this portfolio, we seek groundbreaking innovations by providing: 
  • Seed Funds to support the development and validation of ideas capable of impacting health outcomes for pregnant women and their babies in low-resource settings, 
  • Validation Funds to introduce and validate the effectiveness of innovations to reach proof-of-concept, and
  • Transition to Scale Funds to develop, refine, and rigoursly test the impact of integrated solutions that have previously measured promising health outcomes in a controlled or limited setting and have the potential to credibly scale to improve the lives of millions of pregnant women and newborns in multiple countries.  Transition funding is limited to integrated solutions that unite technology, service delivery, and demand. 
Round 8 will focus exclusively on transitioning to scale the most promising innovations. Eligible applications will focus on any of the following areas alone or in combination:
  • Developing, testing and refining scaling plan/business model, including generating evidence of health outcomes or conducting further market research needed to engage partners. 
  • Transitioning to scale innovations with promising health impact and developed,  sustainable scaling plans. These innovations must have demonstrated strong evidence in a controlled or limited setting of improved health outcome(s) and/or the reduction of significant barrier(s) to health and demand for the solution (i.e. proof of concept). Submissions will have the potential to credibly scale in a sustainable manner beyond the term of Saving Lives at Birth funding to improve the lives of millions of pregnant women and newborns in multiple settings. 

Key Features

  • A brief application.
  • Rapid turnaround time. We aim to select awards within 5 months from the proposal submission deadline.
  • Opportunities for shared learning and collaboration among innovators, funders and other public health experts.
  • A review process designed to identify potentially groundbreaking ideas that show great promise. 

What We’re Looking For

Interventions that:
  • Substantially increase demand for and access to primary health interventions for women and newborns;
  • Substantially improve the quality of care as measured by health outcomes; and
  • Improve and sustain healthy behaviors, attitudes, and practices.

Solutions Should Be

  • Creative: Bold, "off the beaten track," daring in premise
  • Appropriate: Designed with and for end-users in the target population or context to meet their specific needs and circumstances
  • Impactful: Addressone or more important adverse maternal, fetal, or neonatal health conditions 
  • Competitive: Clearly differentiated from and superior to standard practice, particularly on factors of cost and ease of use
  • Sustainable: Demonstrate a clear path to obtain continued political and financial support for sustained implementation and/or use of the innovation. Partnerships important for scale and matched funding are critical for solutions transitioning to scale.
  • Scalable:Demonstrate the potential to increase and sustain coverage and impact of the intervention both within and beyond the award period, and be implemented in contexts or settings outside of those reached during the award period.
  • Measureable: Able to be monitored, measured and evaluated for impact.



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Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development
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