Gates Foundation opens new round of requests for wacky ideas

Mad Scientist

Mad Scientist

Well, maybe not too wacky.

The Gates Foundation is accepting proposals from scientists, engineers, inventors or anyone with a creative idea aimed at solving some key problems in global health.

This is Round 7 for the Grand Challenges Exploration program, a $100 million initiative which offers $100,000 grants in seed money for “unconventional” ideas on:

Synthetic biology? Hmmm, I guess that has to do with combining biology and computers, or some form of engineering technique that allows researchers to manipulate genes and proteins like they might jigger with bits and bytes, or microprocessors and microchips.

The Gates Foundation doesn’t always precisely specify exactly what it wants in these Grand Challenges Exploration projects. They don’t want to limit the imagination.

“Addressing critical and complex global health and development challenges – such as polio eradication, vaccine uptake, sanitation and other factors that promote optimal development — requires innovative solutions,” said Chris Wilson, director of discovery at the Seattle philanthropy.

The Gates Foundation has always like what some call the “techno-fix” approach to these kind of problems, but it has changed its strategy on supporting research. As the Seattle Times reported a while back, the original Grand Challenges approach (which funded mega-projects) has been replaced by the new “Explorations” strategy which awards initial $100,000 grants and then up to $1 million in additional funding for promising projects.

More information on the initiative, along with descriptions of past grant winners and how to apply (applications are accepted through May 19) can be found at the Gates Foundation’s Explorations web page.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.