Enter Johnson & Johnson’s Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0

A screen shot of the Johnson & Johnson’s Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 websiteAre you Africa’s next innovative entrepreneur? Do you need a financial boost to help bring your incredible idea to market? You could benefit from entering Johnson & Johnson’s Champions of Science Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0! This is the second continent-wide competition calling on African innovators to submit ideas for innovative technologies, products and solutions that have the potential to have a positive impact on African communities.

The challenge focuses on identifying scalable and sustainable solutions to six major health and environmental problems for Africa’s population. The categories are mental health, consumer packaging, botanical solutions, health worker support, digital health tools and essential surgery.

‘The growing number of innovation hubs throughout Africa is sparking a new generation of entrepreneurs, who are innovating and finding new solutions for issues facing their communities,’ says Josh Ghaim, chief technology officer at Johnson & Johnson Consumer.

Ghaim is also a member of the Johnson & Johnson research and development management committee, which launched the challenge on 8 November at the Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum in Cape Town.

Enhancing the creative spirit of entrepreneurs

‘Our goal with the second Africa Innovation Challenge is to expand our support for the region’s entrepreneurs by pushing the boundaries of creative solutions to meet several areas of urgent need. With six new solution categories, Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 represents an extraordinary opportunity for the region's growing community of innovators to showcase new ideas with the potential for broad societal impact,’ says Ghaim.

Seema Kumar, VP of innovation, global public health and science policy communication at Johnson & Johnson, adds: ‘We believe a great idea can come from anyone, anywhere, and we work with entrepreneurs around the world to relentlessly pursue innovations that advance and enhance the health of everyone, everywhere.’ said

Kumar is also a member of the Johnson & Johnson research and development management committee. He simultaneously launched the challenge at the Women Leaders in Global Health Conference in London, UK.

‘This is an exciting time to be part of Africa's rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem, which recognises that people and patients across the continent are waiting for urgent solutions. The Africa Innovation Challenge provides an important platform to support emerging entrepreneurs and help accelerate the development of unique, sustainable healthcare and environmental solutions,’ he comments.

Selection criteria for entries

The Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 is designed to address the critical unmet needs of the continent and African communities. It also seeks to provide support to Africa-based entrepreneurs in creating innovative healthcare products and services. Among the selection criteria, entries must demonstrate the potential for scale from the proof of concept stage to long-term sustainability.

Challenge participants with the best solutions will receive up to US$50 000 in funding and mentorship from the global network of scientists, engineers and business managers within the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies to bring new solutions forward.

Challenge submissions may originate from anywhere in Africa and from one or more individuals, teams or companies. They are subject to certain eligibility requirements set out in the terms and conditions for the challenge. The submitted healthcare solutions will be evaluated based on their ability to meet the following criteria:

  1. Idea submission addresses at least one of the six challenge categories.
  2. Idea submission is innovative and creative.
  3. Idea submission is scalable.
  4. Idea submission outlines how the award would help the applicant(s) reach a critical milestone within the timeframe of a single year and provides a full commercialisation plan.

A strong presence in Africa

‘We are thrilled to be collaborating once again on the Africa Innovation Challenge,’ says Thierry Zomahoun, president and CEO of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and founder and chairman of the Next Einstein Forum (NEF).

‘Earlier this year, at our biennial Next Einstein Forum event, we had the pleasure of hearing from the first challenge winners. The incredible success of their businesses provides wonderful examples of leadership and entrepreneurialism and is a testament to the amazing young talent across Africa. We look forward to the winners of Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0.’

‘The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies comprises of one of the world’s largest health care companies. It draws on over 85 years of engagement in Africa in over 25 countries and is proud to support Africa’s rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem,’ says Alma Scott, VP of operations and partnerships, global public health at Johnson & Johnson. ‘We’ve learned over time that solving last-mile challenges through regional empowerment offers the greatest potential impact in the fight against public health challenges. It can also help fuel the local economy and catalyse infrastructure investments.’

Categories for Challenge 2.0

The six new solution categories of the challenge aim to address significant threats to Africa’s healthcare systems and environment. They are:

  1. Botanical Solutions: 60 to 80 percent of households in Africa still rely on traditional medicine to care for themselves and loved ones. Johnson & Johnson is seeking naturally derived, plant-based solutions that tap into traditional knowledge and deliver consumer health and wellness benefits through topical application.
  2. Packaging Innovations: Managing packaging waste from the increasing consumption in Africa is a challenge for many communities. Johnson & Johnson is looking for sustainable innovations for packaging of single-dose units and other affordable product sizes that will reduce or eliminate waste, while protecting the product.
  3. Mental Health: Caring for someone with mental illness, especially the youth, can be very challenging for rural communities. As a result, 75 to 85 percent of people living with mental illness in Africa may not have access to mental health care. Johnson & Johnson is seeking innovations that create awareness for mental illness as a public health problem and offer solutions for patients, caregivers and their communities to address these issues.
  4. Health Worker Support: African frontline health workers experience high rates of stress and burnout due to the heavy burden of disease and marked health system challenges. The challenge is seeking innovations that support the wellbeing and resilience of nurses, midwives and community health workers at the heart of delivering care.
  5. Digital Health Tools: The African continent has the world’s poorest health outcomes, with HIV, TB, mental health, maternal health and Ebola having an especially significant impact on women in particular. The challenge is interested in digital tools (including apps and other mobile/web/data enabled tech) for these important health care areas that can inform, educate, communicate and connect people to treatment, support and care through their reach and information and improve health outcomes especially for women.
  6. Essential Surgical Care: A significant portion of the burden of disease in Africa can be treated with surgery. However, many health facilities in certain areas do not have the capacity to deliver even basic surgical services. Johnson & Johnson is seeking innovations that promote access to timely, safe and skilled surgical care.

How to apply

To apply to the Challenge and review the applicable terms and conditions, please visit the Africa Innovation Challenge website. The deadline to submit applications is 16 January 2019.

Neither Johnson & Johnson nor any of its companies is granted any rights to applicant ideas as a result of their participation in the Challenge. Applicants and winners remain free to continue the further development of their ideas on their own. Award recipients will be announced during spring 2019.

For more information on the Africa Innovation Challenge and previous winners’ stories of innovation, visit the Africa Innovation Challenge website.

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