Cohort 2 has officially begun!

The MaRS team was thrilled with such great attendance at our kick-off event both in person and online with approximately 120 people joining. We wanted to share this recap of the important points and moments of the day.

challenge framing
Healthcare innovators collaboratively framing, reframing and scoping their challenges during the cohort 2 launch workshop.

Ilse Treurnicht’s Opening Remarks

Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS, started the day off with welcoming remarks. Ilse pointed out that the results from cohort 1 demonstrated the uniqueness of the procurement by co-design process in three ways:

  1. Providers and vendors come to the table as partners in innovation, rather than just buyers and sellers at opposite sides of the negotiation table.
  2. Stakeholders who often get left out of procurement decisions get a voice. These are the front-line workers, patients, and administrators who have a lot of power in transforming our health system are part of the solution-making process, instead of having solutions forced on them.
  3. Solutions are valued for their potential impact and outcomes. By taking away the focus from specifications and features of the solution at the outset, this process allows for vendors of all sizes and types to participate. Solutions are also tested before they are procured.

Special Key Note Speaker Greg Downing

Special keynote speaker, Greg Downing of the HHS IDEALAB highlighted interesting examples of co-design challenges that have taken place with the US government. One example that stood out was the 2014 FDA Food Safety challenge which resulted in the development of several interesting methods of detecting Salmonella. Greg’s examples highlighted that there are several ways to solve a problem and being open to new ideas can lead to new discoveries that can be adopted elsewhere.


To help break the ice and encourage attendees to get to know each other we started the workshop off with an exercise. We asked the providers in the room to write down healthcare delivery problems that they are currently facing and asked the vendors in the room to write down a description of solutions that they are currently working on. The majority of attendees had the same healthcare delivery problem in mind: “How can we share information and communication between different care settings (hospital, lab, family health teams) and with patients?” We look forward to seeing how many challenge briefs submitted for cohort 2 will center around this topic.

health system challenges
Challenges facing our healthcare system from delivery organizations (yellow) and vendors (blue).

We also presented details around the program timeline and grant funding. Three questions came up that we’d like to highlight here:

1. What is being procured at the end of the day? Is this about procuring for an early stage trial or full adoption?

The procurement that takes place will be for the fully developed co-designed solution that the provider and vendors have created together through this program. However, given the evaluation period for the program is 14 weeks, the procurement decision may be based on an evaluation of a minimal viable product. Teams will have to decide the outcomes, and related features of the solution, that need to be met in order for the provider to make the procurement decision.

There is a possibility that the team will want to procure the solution at the end of the process for the purpose of continued development and testing. This could impact the project’s eligibility for the procurement grant and will be discussed on a case by case basis.

2. Are solutions that require clinical trials acceptable?

No, this process is not suited for solutions that still need regulatory approval. Evaluations done under this process cannot require Research Ethics Board approvals.

3. What’s the total amount of grant funding available?

There is a total of $100,000 dollars available for the first co-design grants and a total $50,000 in procurement grants.

We ended the workshop with an overview of the challenge brief. This is the document that healthcare delivery organizations will use to describe the challenge they want to work on, what they hope to achieve, and the criteria they are going to use to evaluate potential vendor partners.

All materials, including program overview slides from the event, are available as part of the program details.

Submit a challenge!

The call for challenge briefs is open and are due by October 13th 5 PM EST.

Learn more about participating as a health care delivery organization or a vendor.