Grand Challenges Canada Awards $100,000 to 20 Innovators

Canadian innovation is making an impact—both at home and abroad.

Grand Challenges Canada announced a $2 million investment into 20 Canadian companies meant to address persistent challenges in women’s and children’s health, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Each of the 20 projects will receive approximately $100,000 to develop and test their innovations. That funding comes from Grand Challenges Canada with some financial support through the Government of Canada and Global Affairs Canada.

The ideas chosen embrace multiple sectors and ideologies, covering everything from health tech to food security. A lot of the projects stem from universities, but there were a few companies selected as well. There are six projects from Ontario, four from Quebec, three each from Nova Scotia and B.C., two from Alberta, and one reach from Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“By sparking and supporting bold ideas to improve global health, Canada is having a big impact on the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable women, adolescents, and children,” said Dr. Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada. “I am also pleased that many of these ideas support Canada’s top development priorities: advancing gender equality and empowering women and girls.”

Below are some of the projects that harness technology to make an impact on women’s and children’s health.

  • Researchers from the University of Victoria are providing orthotic care for children with skeletal deformities like clubfoot or scoliosis in Nepal through the use of 3D printed devices.
  • In Malawi, innovators with the University of British Columbia in Vancouver will build a diagnostic algorithm and incorporate it into a mobile app to help doctors identify babies most in need of rapid treatment for a bacterial infection. The project obtains clinical data from a low-cost foot or hand probe attached to a phone, as well as a small blood sample.
  • Vancouver’s WelTel Incorporated created a private/public ride-sharing app in Kenya to facilitate lifesaving transportation for expectant pregnant mothers in remote or resource-limited areas.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group from the University of Alberta in Edmonton will optimize and and test the “multimometer,” a tool meant to fight against childhood pneumonia. It measures respiratory rates, temperature, oxygen saturation and heart rate.
  • Amref Health Africa in Canada (located in Toronto) will introduce a specially designed app into Kenya designed to diagnose malaria with a proprietary algorithm. Once a microscopic image of a blood film is uploaded, the app can diagnose malaria with similar results when compared to expert microscopy.
  • Toronto’s RQDN Labs will introduce ParentUp to the Philippines, a mobile phone service that aims to provide informational and emotional support during pregnancy and up until a child’s early years. The project will look to lower postpartum depression and inform users on the importance of mental health.
  • NuPhysics Consulting Ltd., also in Toronto, will develop and add inexpensive technology to ice-lined refrigerators in India to increase the time of cooling without electricity. This is meant to keep vaccines safe to use for an extended period, as they must be kept cool and are often used on-delivery in areas without reliable electricity.
  • Sensoreal Inc, based in Montreal, will produce low-cost and easy-to-use diagnostic tools in Bangladesh to detect gastrointestinal pathogens. These tools will come in the form of microchips that can measure a disease biomarker in one drop of blood, and they cost $0.50 each.

The full list of all 20 projects can be found here.

Grand Challenges Canada has been operating since 2011 and given out $52 million to 471 different projects. One-fifth of those projects are now scaling and have the potential to make a significant impact by 2030.