Eric Wang

On Feb. 25, the Yale Institute for Global Health announced the launch of the Sustainable Health Initiative, a startup accelerator geared towards improving public health in India. This is the institute’s first signature program since its inception in 2017.

Deputy Director of the Institute for Global Health Michael Skonieczny said the initiative will provide $70,000 in seed funding and six months of a business curriculum on behalf of The CoWrks Foundry to up to 10 startups every year. Those selected will also be introduced to a network of Yale faculty and Indian health leaders, he added.

According to the website, the Sustainable Health Initiative is looking for innovative solutions focused on areas such as “infectious and vector-borne diseases; noncommunicable diseases; maternal, child, and newborn health; water and sanitation; and urban health and the environment.”

Skonieczny said he is eager for the initiative to improve the livelihoods of people around the world.

“What we’re really hoping for is the opportunity to have an impact on the health of people in India, but globally as well,” he said. “My hope is that these startups — through seed grants and through a business development program — will lead to tremendous opportunity and an opportunity to have an impact on people’s health in India and in other contexts.”

The program is currently accepting applicants from both Yale-based startups as well as those not affiliated with the University until April 5. Yale admits will travel to Bangalore this June to complete the first half of the curriculum and then will continue remotely from the United States. In addition to the seed funding, the initiative will pay for the startups’ travel and lodging.

Once all applications are submitted, a committee made up of Yale affiliates and representatives of the RMZ Foundation and the CoWrks Foundry will choose the startups that will receive funding.

According to the website, the committee will decide based on startups’ proposed impact, feasibility, innovativeness, appropriateness and pertinence, among other qualifications. Skonieczny and his team encouraged members of all disciplines to apply to the program, especially applicants in the fields of public health, medicine, nursing, design, engineering, architecture and public policy, among others.

In exchange for the program’s benefits, the RMZ Foundation — an Indian sustainable health charity organization and partner of the Initiative — will own up to a 15 percent stake in each startup. Skonieczny said the equity is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Sustainable Health Initiative and added that throughout the six-month curriculum, mentees will be able to pitch for more venture capital as needed.

“It’s an opportunity, particularly for Yale based-teams, to have an impact on the sustainable health space,” Skonieczny said. “For these startups, this is real support that they’re getting in terms of the seed funding, the accelerator curriculum and other components of the program.”

According to professor of global health policy and economics Xi Chen, the Sustainable Health Initiative will bring much-needed public health innovations to India. However, he said, chosen startups will face challenges when implementing their solutions in India and other nations around the world.

“Developing countries often have weak public health law enforcement environments, which can be a barrier. How will startups overcomes these obstacles will be become the key,” he said. “Startups will need smart and sustainable solutions without sacrificing high economic growth to tackle environmental health challenges.”

The Sustainable Health Initiative will announce the startups for its pilot accelerator cycle in April.

Matt Kristoffersen | matt.kristoffersen@yale.edu