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The Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh): Driving Innovation in Translational Research Through an Incentive-Based, Problem-Focused Competition

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Translational research aims to move scientific discoveries across the biomedical spectrum from the laboratory to humans, and to ultimately transform clinical practice and public health policies. Despite efforts to accelerate translational research through national initiatives, several major hurdles remain.


The authors created the Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh) as an incentive-based, problem-focused approach to solving identified clinical or public health problems at the University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute in spring 2014. With input from a broad range of stakeholders, PInCh leadership arrived at the challenge question: How do we empower individuals to take control of their own health outcomes? The authors developed the PInCh’s three-round proposal submission and review process as well as an online contest management tool to support the process.


Ninety-two teams submitted video proposals in round one. Proposals included mobile applications (29; 32%), other information technology (19; 21%), and community program (22; 24%) solutions. Ten teams advanced to the final round, where three were awarded $100,000 to implement their solution over 12 months. In a 6-month follow-up survey, 6/11 (55%) team leaders stated the PInCh helped to facilitate connections outside their normal sphere of collaborators.

Next Steps

Additional educational training sessions related to problem-focused research will be developed. The PInCh will be expanded to engage investment and industry communities to facilitate the translation of solutions to clinical practice via commercialization pathways. External organizations and other universities will be engaged to use the PInCh as a mechanism to fuel innovation in their spaces.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2017

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