By Perry W. Payne, Jr., MD/JD/MPP

At the recent Care Innovations Summit in Washington, DC, Vice President of Sanofi, Dennis Urbaniak announced the 2012 Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge. This challenge builds on the company’s success with last year’s challenge which iMedicalApps reported on in December.

According to Sanofi, the goal of this year’s challenge is to “drive innovation in the quality, delivery, and cost of diabetes care.” The winner of last year’s competition,, developed a mobile app which demonstrates the importance of this technology to the health care sector and the relevance of this competition to mobile app innovators.

Sanofi is using an innovative approach for this award beginning with crowdsourcing to determine the criteria for the challenge. Sanofi is asking innovators a simple question, “What matters most to you?”.

Responses to this initial question are due by February 12th. A response does not appear to be required to enter the competition, though.

This year Sanofi is also working with the Startup America Partnership in order to offer innovators access to entrepreneurship tools that are useful for growing successful ventures. Startup America Partnership is a company with an ambitious agenda to offer resources to startups, offer support to “regional startup ecosystems” throughout the nation, and bring more attention to the fact that startups are the drivers of the US economy. They also want to promote startup founders as American heroes. Details of the Innovation Challenge follow below.

The challenge will begin accepting submissions on February 23rd. They will then follow a format similar to their competition in 2011.  Using the crowdsourced criteria, five semi-finalists will be awarded $20,000 and be offered the opportunity to participate in an intensive mentorship program for a month. They will also be asked to attend Design Bootcamp in order to learn more about human-centered design, user experience, and rapid prototyping. The goal is to create strong prototypes that will then compete to become the finalist for the competition.

Who’s Eligible?

The challenge is open to anyone over 18 at the time of entry. International submissions are welcome. Team submissions are encouraged.

What’s the competition timeline?

Submissions will be accepted for one month, from February 23, 2012 to March 23, 2012 (11:59 PM EST). Semi-finalists will be announced on March 30, 2012. After participating in a design boot camp and receiving mentorship, the semi-finalists will participate in “Demo day” on May 16, 2012 in the New York City Metropolitan area. Semi-finalists must be able to attend the boot camp and the Demo Day in order to be considered for the next round of the competition.

The sponsor will provide a stipend to decrease the costs of transportation and other travel costs. The Demo Day will be streamed online and viewers of the demos will be allowed to vote for a period of one week. Two finalists will be announced on the competition website on May 24, 2012.  The final two teams will engage in a community uptake exercise to assess how their prototype’s success in the real world during the June 2012.  The final winner will be announced in July 16, 2012.

Submission Requirements

Submissions must be a product or service that can improve the outcomes and /or experience of people living with diabetes. The submissions should focus on the needs of people living with diabetes in the United States. The entries should clearly articulate the benefits of their innovation to the “ecosystem” of people living with diabetes including providers, family members, caregivers, etc.

The prototype of the submission must be available within a 4 – 6 week period if the team is chosen as the winner. One unique aspect of this competition is that individuals and teams can make multiple submissions. The submissions should consist of a textual submission and what they sponsors call a “visual asset.” This appears to be a visual interpretation of the idea such as a diagram, screenshot, or similar schematic. Contestants should use the contest website to enter their submissions.

Selecting winners

Since the company is using crowdsourcing to determine the criteria for the competition, the assessment criteria are not completely clear. However, the website for the competition contains some guidance for individuals and teams.

All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of judges including a Sanofi senior executive, government representative, public figure with diabetes, venture capitalist, innovation leader, healthcare innovation leader, and leading health care provider. The judges will use the following criteria along with the state score to assess the submissions.

  • NOVEL IDEA – Ability to meet the unique needs of people living with diabetes in a way that is differentiated from other solutions in the marketplace (up to 40 points)
  • RELEVANT TO LARGE POPULATION – Scalability of the concept so that it can meet the needs of a large population of people living with diabetes (up to 20 points)
  • IMPROVE CARE AND LOWER COST – Ability to address better care at a lower cost through innovation (up to 20 points);
  • USER FRIENDLY – Attentiveness to both functional and behavioral conditions within the concept (up to 20 points).

The sponsors also state that the finalists will be chosen based on the strength of the concept, efficacy of their prototype, ability to “pitch” the solution during Demo Day, and the response to the product or service provided by people living with diabetes during the final community uptake phase.

Five semi-finalists will receive $20,000 for development of the concept prototype. The two finalists selected will receive $10,000 to create a community-based-proof-of-concept program. The winner of the competition will receive $100,000 to develop the concept.

If you know any developer challenges or grants for mHealth research, please share them on the iMedicalApps forum