Solutions on a Fast Track: Accelovate Design Challenge Model

Session: Technology to Improve Coverage and Quality of Maternal Newborn Care

Presenter: Deepti Tanuku, Accelovate Program, Jhpiego

Background: In low- and middle-income countries, the pace from launch to scale lags piteously behind that seen in high-income countries. In fact, inefficiencies dominate innovation for low-resource settings even before the introduction phase. To speed the way for much-needed solutions in the maternal and newborn health sector, open innovation offers much promise. Charged with increasing global access to affordable health solutions, Accelovate—a partnership between Jhpiego and USAID—developed a Design Challenge model to catalyze innovation. The approach combines elements of crowd-sourcing, competition, and collaboration to advance the best technologies and elevate the sector.   In September, 2015, Accelovate will conclude its first Design Challenge, addressing the lack of appropriate postural support devices (PSDs) for low-resource settings.

Methodology: Accelovate begins with a clear definition of a problem to map a solution. An open call presents this common solution framework and introduces Accelovate’s core principles, including:  • affordability; • simplicity;   • robustness; and • application of frugal engineering concepts.

Results: For the PSD Design Challenge, twelve solutions were submitted, representing six countries and four continents. Accelovate’s technical review committee—composed of product designers, engineers, and clinicians with expertise in wheelchair service provision—awarded six of these innovations with grants up to $5,000 to develop initial prototypes.  In February, 2015, the innovators brought their early prototypes to Design Showcase meetings to compete for three awards up to $120,000 to develop final prototypes. Once judging was complete, competitors were invited to question and support one another during rapid-fire elevator pitch sessions. $120,000 awardees received additional mentorship and opportunities for collaboration.

Conclusion: The Design Challenge model provides a platform to source great ideas from around the globe. Through open innovation, solutions are fast-tracked cheaply efficiently where they are needed most.