Grand Challenges for Development

Saving Lives at Birth - Pumani bCPAP
Saving Lives at Birth: Up for the Challenge
All Children Reading A Grand Challenge for Development
All Children Reading
Powering Agriculture: Voices of the Energy Grand Challenge for Development
Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development

The Grand Challenges for Development initiative is rooted in two fundamental beliefs about international development:

  • Science and technology, when applied appropriately, can have transformational effects; and
  • Engaging the world in the quest for solutions is critical to instigating breakthrough progress.

Grand Challenges for Development focus global attention and resources on specific, well defined international development problems, and promote innovative approaches, processes and solutions to solving them. They engage non-traditional solvers such as businesses, researchers, and scientists around critical development problems in a variety ways through partnerships, prizes, challenge grant funding, crowdsourcing, and more to identify innovations that work.

To date, USAID has launched nine Grand Challenges for Development:

Humanitarian Grand Challenge

In early 2018, U.S. Agency of International Development through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and Grand Challenges Canada are launching a Humanitarian Grand Challenge, which will identify, support, and transition to scale innovations that enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian assistance.  The Humanitarian Grand Challenge will bring global attention and resources to specific, well-defined international humanitarian problems and will provide a platform for leading donors, investors, and private sector partners to develop, support, and grow innovative approaches to solve them.

For more information, visit: Humanitarian Grand Challenge

Ensuring Effective Health Supply Chains: A Grand Challenge for Development

In developing countries, supply chains are often sub-optimal and ineffective in supporting broader health goals due to a combination of failures at various points along the supply chain. Improving supply chains and addressing roadblocks to access could save up to 6 million lives and contribute to further reductions in deaths of women and young children. And cutting down on inefficiencies in supply chains could save millions of dollars per year.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Ensuring Effective Health Supply Chains to uncover innovative and transformative solutions that can overcome key roadblocks and build more effective supply chains in low- and middle-income countries around the world.

For more information, visit: Ensuring Effective Health Supply Chains: A Grand Challenge for Development.

Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development

More than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity. The Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge brings together USAID, the U.K. Department for International Development, the Shell Foundation, and Power Africa to accelerate growth in the off-grid energy market with a goal to provide 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa with access to modern, clean and affordable electricity.

The Scaling Off-Grid Energy Grand Challenge incentivizes technological innovation, funds early stage companies, and supports critical elements of the off-grid ecosystem by:

  • Expanding Supply: Helping off-grid enterprises expand geographically, test new business models and tap into private and public sources of finance;
  • Driving Demand: Encouraging innovation in products and services customers want and need; and, 
  • Strengthening the Marketplace: Promoting policy and regulatory reforms, spurring the growth of mobile payment systems, and building capacity in local markets.

For more information, visit: Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development.

Combating Zika and Future Threats

To stop the spread of Zika and prevent other infectious disease outbreaks, USAID launched Combating Zika and Future Threats: A Grand Challenge for Development. USAID is calling for the global innovator community to generate cutting-edge technologies and approaches to fight Zika in the near term and to help strengthen the world’s response to infectious diseases in the future.

The Challenge seeks to spur innovation across a wide array of immediate and longer-term needs, including vector control, personal protection, surveillance, sample transport, and community engagement.

For more information visit: Combating Zika and Future Threats: A Grand Challenge for Development

Fighting Ebola

USAID and the Office of Science and Technology are coordinating the launch of a Grand Challenge to help healthcare workers on the front lines provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola. USAID is asking for a range of solutions that should enable longer work periods; require less personal protective equipment (PPE) and fewer transitions; provide cleaner work environments; and generate less infectious waste and/or offer enhanced protection for disposal of waste. Solutions should:

  • Improve upon standard practice (required);
  • Be “off the beaten track,” daring in premise (ideal);

  • Enhance acceptability and provide for sustained use;
  • Be low-cost or highly cost-effective;

  • Can be produced at large scale rapidly;
  • Are able to be monitored, measured and evaluated.

For more information visit: Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development

Securing Water for Food

USAID and Sweden are looking for scientific and technological innovations to more effectively use and manage the water required to produce food in developing and emerging countries. We are focusing on three areas that are critical to reducing water scarcity in the food value chain:

  • Water reuse and efficiency,
  • Water capture and storage, and
  • Salinity

For more information, visit:

Saving Lives at Birth

USAID, the Government of Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, The World Bank, and the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) call for groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant women and newborns in poor, low resource communities around the 48 hours of delivery through:

  • Science and technology advances that prevent, detect or treat maternal and newborn problems at the time of birth;
  • New approaches to delivering high-quality care at the time of birth;  and
  • Empowering and engaging pregnant women and their families.

For more information, visit:

All Children Reading

Launched in 2011 by USAID, World Vision, and the Australian Government, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) solicits creative, cost-effective innovations from the global science, technology, education and broader development communities to improve reading for children in early grades.

Round two of ACR GCD combines grants with a series of prizes to seek out technology-based innovations that support improvements in basic reading skills with a focus on mother tongue instruction and reading materials, family and community engagement, and children with disabilities.

Learn more and submit your solution at:

Powering Agriculture

Launched in June 2012, Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development will overcome critical barriers to agricultural electric energy access through innovative clean energy technologies and financing mechanisms.  The effort will bring global attention to the persistent energy access issues that confront farmers throughout the developing world in agricultural production, processing, and storage.

This Grand Challenge for Development encourages innovators to find new ways to bring clean energy to farmers through sustainable and scalable solutions that will create more and better quality food for farmers, their families, and their communities.  It is also expected that these innovations will create new economic opportunities in agricultural communities in the developing world.

For more information, visit:

Making All Voices Count

Making All Voices Count will support people and governments to use innovation, web and mobile technologies to improve government performance and accountability. This unique partnership will amplify the voices of citizens and enable governments to open up, listen and respond.

Link to site: