saving lives at birth


NCIIA’s Xcelerator program supports global innovators to create groundbreaking technologies to solve problems that challenge the lives of people in the developing world.

Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development 

Designed originally in partnership with USAID and The Lemelson Foundation for Saving Lives at Birth grantees, the Xcelerator Training Program supports innovative approaches to helping pregnant women and newborns in the high-risk period leading up to and immediately following birth, which is the riskiest time for mothers and infants in the world’s poorest places.

Participants include a team from Rice University that has reduced the price of an essential treatment for babies suffering from respiratory distress from $6,000 to $160; a Columbia University-Rwandan partnership to deploy a low-cost diagnostic device for HIV and syphilis that requires only one drop of blood; and a team from Australia developing a needle-free, non-refrigerated treatment for postpartum hemorrhage.

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE)– The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2014, NCIIA will produce three Xcelerator workshops as a pilot program for Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE), an initiative of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMFG). GCE engages scientists worldwide to expand the pipeline of innovative ideas to meet global health challenges.

BMGF and The Lemelson Foundation are partnering to providing support for Xcelerator for GCE grantees.

Learn more about the Xcelerator training

Watch our training videos:
Intro to Strategy Mapping Video
Context Analysis Training Video
Exit Strategy Training Video

Suggested reading:
Africa - Promise And Progress
Scaling-up Aid

For more information, contact:
Laura Sampath
Global Training Programs Manager

Xcelerator training program


The Xcelerator training program provides training and mentoring on entrepreneurship and commercialization to USAID and Grand Challenges grantees to increase the likelihood that their innovations will succeed. The training prepares innovators to address the complexities of implementing a new technology in the developing world and turn inventive ideas into products that have broad impact on the lives of the poorest populations.

The Xcelerator training program is implemented through the NCIIA in partnership with USAID and The Lemelson Foundation. The focal point of the eight-month program is an immersive multi-day training preceded by pre-course preparation and an assessment of the stage that each team is at in the innovation process. Following the training, teams are offered individualized team support that guides them toward their individualized scale-up strategies.


In the pre-course preparation phase, we ask teams to gather specific information about their target markets, including problem identification and competitive landscape analysis. Also in this phase, we conduct an assessment of where the teams are in their innovation pathway.

While teams are immersed in several days of training, they focus intensely on aspects of their strategy including problem framing, customer development, financial sustainability options, conducting a value chain analysis and identifying and communicating their value proposition.

Through individualized coaching and mentoring, post-training activities support the teams in refining scale-up strategies and addressing specific barriers to scale including legal frameworks, manufacturing, distribution and strategic partnerships.

Xcelerator Arusha agenda

Xcelerator home | Agenda | 
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Sample daily agenda

Day 1
Team introductions
Pushing the “mental reset button”
Intro to strategy mapping
Framing the problem
Rapid prototyping of business models

Day 2

Financial models and additional market research
Overlay and scalability
Evaluating & iterating
Paths to scale
Day 3 Morning site visit
Developing the action plan/next steps
Day 4 Communicating the value proposition
Closing ceremony
Participant wrap up


Xcelerator training program faculty

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James Barlow,

Sara Farley,

Joel Segre,



Announcing the Xcelerator training program in partnership with USAID and The Lemelson Foundation



Award to fund Xcelerator training among USAID Grantees, turning ideas into sustainable solutions that improve the lives of expectant mothers and newborns

OTTAWA, ON, Canada, December 12, 2012 — Today at the Grand Challenges meeting in Ottawa, Canada, Wendy Taylor, Director, Center for Accelerating Innovation and Impact at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Carol Dahl, Executive Director of The Lemelson Foundation, announced a partnership between USAID and The Lemelson Foundation to award more than $700,000 to the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).  The Foundation and USAID will each contribute $352,000 toward this effort. The funds will be used to enable USAID’s Saving Lives at Birth grantees the ability to avoid common pitfalls in scaling, helping them accelerate their ideas and inventions into sustainable solutions that will impact on the world’s poorest populations.

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