MaRS Discovery District recently announced a new initiative called Innovation Partnership: Procurement by Co-Design. It offers start-up technology companies an opportunity to collaborate with Ontario-based, publicly funded healthcare service providers in the development of technology which is specifically tailored to address pressing health industry problems identified by the providers. MaRS is making available a limited number of grants of up to $25,000 for participating projects to test and evaluate a solution and up to $25,000 to acquire a solution that passes the test.

Eligible projects must be digital, innovative and offer a clear solution to a provider’s pressing problem. It must also be possible to design and test the projects in a clinical environment rapidly and at a minimal cost. The cost to procure the project must be less than $100,000.

To participate, healthcare providers must request the “Challenge Brief” template and guidebook from MaRS, which provides an overview of how to frame a challenge, key desired outcomes and evaluation criteria for vendor selection.

The competition involves three phases:

  1. Initiation – during this stage, healthcare providers publicize “Challenge Briefs” that describe the challenge, the desired outcome and the evaluation criteria. Individual vendors then respond with “Innovator Briefs” describing the proposed solution, and providers review vendor submissions to determine a shortlist of vendors to pitch and discuss their solutions.
  2. Design and Prototyping – during this stage, the healthcare provider and the selected vendor collaborate on a solution and produce a prototype. The provider then conducts a final evaluation.
  3. Procurement – if the provider’s decision is favourable, then the provider has an opportunity to procure the product.

The deadline to submit a “Challenge Brief” to MaRS is September 12, 2016 at 5pm. Vendors will have until September 26th to submit responses.

MaRS has indicated that the program complies with the Broader Public Sector procurement guidelines. Healthcare service providers are also reminded to consult their own internal policies and/or funding agreements as to when competitive procurement of goods and services is required.

Prior to commencing research and development activity with vendors through this program, healthcare service providers are advised to consider and document:

  • the facility access and scope of collaboration to be provided by the healthcare service provider;
  • invention ownership and rights for future use, commercialization and revenue;
  • confidentiality and privacy obligations; and
  • risk management and mitigation.