India has seen remarkable economic development in the last decade, particularly in terms of GDP and growth rate. This growth is also reflected in the Indian healthcare sector. However, with a population of 1.3 billion people to serve, there are numerous challenges that still need to be tackled. Rapid economic growth, globalization, unplanned and unregulated urbanization, changing life styles and other environmental causes have, on one hand contributed to a substantially increased labor force, but on the other, also affected workforce efficiency. This has resulted to a surge in non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia and mental illness in India and all the other growing economies.

To sustain this growth and keep up with this evolution, India and other emerging economies in the world must prioritize investing in health and recognizing disease prevention and health promotion.

In tandem with the challenges, the healthcare industry in India faces a very strong barrier of dealing with regulation. There is an urgent need for a more industry-oriented regularisation with $510 million worth of investment being made across 80 health-tech startups in 2018 alone. With the industry expected to grow to $280 Bn by 2020 (add a reference here) and poised to undergo a change at all its stages — prevention, diagnosis, and treatment — both public and private sectors need to build an open, flexible and inviting ecosystem to encourage innovation.

In light of this, The CoWrks Foundry has partnered with the Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH), supported by RMZ Foundation, to launch the Sustainable Health Initiative (SHI). The SHI is a 24-week long, interdisciplinary accelerator program for young & early stage startups building innovative solutions in healthcare.

Yale University launched the YIGH as an effort to address global health issues. Leveraging expertise from disciplines across the university and collaborators across the globe, YIGH is a catalyst for global health research ; uniquely positioned to take on the emerging social and global health challenges that threaten the emerging economies.

In the SHI collaboration, the YIGH will serve as the academic coordinator and “knowledge partner,” providing faculty mentorship for up to 50 startup company prospects over a 5-year period. Each year select innovative startups will focus on a broad thematic portfolio linked to areas of need and opportunity in India. Example areas include infectious and non-communicable diseases; maternal and child health; early childhood development; clean energy; environmental and planetary health; waste and water management and more. The faculty at Yale will be engaged in helping nurture these entrepreneurial concepts, whether originating in India, the U.S., or elsewhere.

The aim of SHI is to encourage and build a culture of research and innovation by helping the chosen startups to generate homegrown data, obtained through R&D, and in turn utilise the information for policy and strategy development, priority setting, and evaluating the impact. From improving sanitation to creating an IoT enabled environment for remote monitoring, the SHI will provide a unique platform for healthtech startups.

The SHI program will select up to ten startups per year, calling applications from the Indian ecosystem and the Yale University student/alumni/faculty. Chosen startups will have access to $70,000 in seed fundingmentorship from faculty and alumni at Yale, as well as a network of Indian industry experts as well as global practitioners and researchers. In addition, the program includes structured sessions to help startups evolve a sustainable and scalable business model, refine their go-to market strategy and define and implement metrics to understand impact and growth. Startups applying to the program will be evaluated on whether their solution is robust, affordable, and addresses pressing healthcare challenges in India and other growing economies.

Our partnership with the YIGH is aimed at global knowledge transfer resulting in research, that creates sustainable impact in healthcare not only in India, but also in the world’s emerging economies. With a large ecosystem that is growing at an accelerated pace, India is the perfect testbed for generating and promoting new ideas at the intersection of health, technology, environmental science, urbanization, and public policy. We are elated to be partnering with YIGH.