Grand Challenges Brussels 2022
Grand challenges are widely used to frame societally relevant research and entice non-academic partners. They are seen as able to capture the public imagination and attract non-academic collaborators by being ‘bold, inspirational and with wide societal relevance’ (Mazzucato 2018).
But what makes them successful boundary objects? This is the question I seek to answer in this case study.
Humanitarian Grand Challenge
More than 136 million people live in areas of the world affected by protracted conflict, natural disasters or displacement. These people are often overlooked in humanitarian assistance, which is too focused on emergency responses and insufficiently flexible to respond to long-term needs.
Innovators working in conflict zones face a unique set of challenges that require new approaches, products and systems. Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge is looking for innovations that are capable of being developed, tested, refined and transitioned to scale to generate transformative impact in conflict-affected communities.
The Humanitarian Grand Challenge is part of the larger Grand Challenges family of initiatives that foster innovation to solve key global health and development problems. It is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, and Grand Challenges Canada. The Grand Challenges family of initiatives is a global network of partners who are tackling the world’s most difficult problems.
Pandemic Preparedness and Response Grand Challenge
The recent COVID-19 pandemic served as a reminder of society’s ill-prepared response to global health threats. This grand challenge seeks to catalyze research and innovation to accelerate solutions that prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks in real time.
This project aims to support the enhancement, extension, and consolidation of wastewater pathogen surveillance for global pandemic preparedness. In addition, it focuses on developing new potent antiviral drugs that can counter neglected viral diseases and prevent the spread of future pandemics.
The concept of grand challenges has become increasingly prominent in funding policies and academic discussions (Hicks 2016; Kaldewey 2017). However, few studies have investigated how researchers actually use these concepts in practice. My study focuses on how grand challenges function as boundary objects in research, namely the way they frame researchers’ understanding of societal relevance and guide their choices about interdisciplinary team composition. To do so, I draw on a theoretical framework of boundary objects, which extends the idea of research objects to incorporate broader social contexts.
Global Health Equity Grand Challenge
The global health equity grand challenge seeks to build data modeling capacity in low- and middle-income countries to support a more gender-informed approach to global health. The goal is to support researchers in developing models that can help improve health outcomes by reducing inequalities in population and disease burdens.
The concept of grand challenges has gained popularity in recent science policy as a way to justify research funding for societally relevant topics. They have been defined as societal problems of immense scope and complexity, requiring multidisciplinary research and cooperation between academia and non-academic communities (Mate et al. 2020; Flink and Kaldewey 2018). Grand challenges also appear in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, thereby establishing an association with sustainability (Kuhlmann and Rip 2019). However, there is limited evidence about how grand challenges are being used by researchers, funders, and other stakeholders. To explore these questions, I analyse the processes and outcomes of a grand challenge competition at UCSF.
Locally-Led Innovation Grand Challenge
The eighteenth grand challenges brussels 2022 meeting took place in Brussels on October 24-25, 2019. Johan Neyts and his team led impactful discussions on strategies against viral threats while also visiting the high biosafety laboratories at KU Leuven.
The notion of grand challenges offers a flexible collection of characteristics that researchers and policymakers may select from in order to focus research on societal relevance (Kaltenbrunner 2020). This flexibility makes them effective tools for promoting positive emotions towards academic research, but they might distance projects from their societal impact over time.
The Giga project, for example, is building a cross-sector ecosystem that combines the strengths of different types of organisations to address the global gap in internet connectivity (a clear grand challenge mission). The goal alignment between these partners is key to success, but this requires the ability to adapt to local contexts and respond to changes in the external environment over time. This capacity is an essential element of responsible research and innovation.