Conceive, develop and test innovative solutions to unmet needs in health care
The Carolina E(I) Lab is a six-month experiential program designed to expose graduate students, professional students and postdocs across UNC to the entire lifecycle of innovating a product with the proper product-market fit. E(I) participants will participate in a ‘hackathon’ style weekend-long events where they will form small teams of 4-8 members to develop innovative solutions to pre-identified unmet challenges in the healthcare space. Over the subsequent six months, the team will work together with faculty mentors, to build the prototypes to their solutions, as well as learn and apply the I-Corps curriculum, including business model canvas and customer discovery processes, to identify suitable product-market fits.
From this iterative process of vetting innovative ideas and redesigning/executing prototypes, the students will gain hands-on experience with developing a viable commercial product as well as the process of entrepreneurship and innovation. At the conclusion of the program, teams will present their progress to a panel of judges. The top teams will receive monetary awards, including a potential grand prize that can be invested in startup companies.
Format and timeline
Prior to the Program
Submit a Problem
We are actively soliciting problems that are aligned with the goals of the E(I) Lab program, with the focus broadly related to an aspect of improving health/healthcare. If you know of any problems that you would like to have solved, please submit them here. We especially encourage submission from those who directly interface with patients across the entire spectrum of healthcare, such as nurses, EMTs, physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, etc., as well as from patients themselves. We will actively research and scout the competitive landscape surrounding the proposed problems before the initial kickoff meeting. Graduate students, professional students, and postdocs who wish to participate must apply and be accepted into the program.
Organize and Brainstorm
The E(I) Lab will begin with a kickoff meeting that shares many common elements with a traditional hackathon (see Wikipedia, MIT Hacking Medicine). Participants are given an overview of the E(I) Lab program as well as an introduction to the Business Model Canvas and Lean LaunchPad/Agile Engineering methodologies. There will also be a presentation of 8-12 problems that have been vetted and deemed appropriate for the program. The participants will then have the opportunity to organize themselves into teams based on individuals’ interests and skill sets, and begin initial brainstorming of potential innovative solutions. This process will also include two 30-minute informational sessions about customer discovery and development of minimum viable products. The, the participants will continue to develop and fine tune their ideas.
Teams will also develop detailed execution plans, including timeline, budget, distribution of tasks and key deliverables surrounding the proposed innovation. Each team will condense the information into an eight-minute presentation. The kickoff will conclude with logistical arrangements for the remainder of the program.
The Next Five Months
Teams will immediately begin to develop their prototypes as well as undertake the customer discovery process to help ensure that the proposed innovations do indeed address needs in the marketplace, without potential hurdles in gaining market entry. It is entirely possible that the proposed innovation does not work or there is no marketplace for the proposed product; each team must learn how to quickly pivot and either re-develop the proposed product, or shift the focus to a different problem. During this eight month period, all participants will meet twice a month on Tuesday evenings. The first meeting of each month consists of a didactic module covering a variety of topics in entrepreneurship and innovation, followed by a “fireside chat” session with experienced entrepreneurs. Teams are encouraged to meet and continuing working afterwards. The second meeting of each month will focus on progress reports, where each team will be required to give a 10-minute update of its progress followed by 10-12 minutes of questions and feedback from faculty and other participants. Our expectation is that before the eight month period is over, each team will have successfully developed a minimum viable product, with the needed IP filing, that is ready to be transitioned to an industry partner or startup company. Some teams may accomplish this in even less time.
Finally, at the last gathering of the program, all teams will make a final presentation to a panel of faculty, physicians, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to determine the winners of the monetary prizes ($3,000 first place, $1,500 second place, $750 third & fourth place). We are currently exploring with potential donors the possibility of a grand prize that will provide non-dilutive seed funding for a startup company based on the winning team’s innovation.
Frequently asked questions
Connect with our team
Our E(I) Lab team is ready to help you conceive, test and develop innovative solutions to unmet needs in health care.