The GEM Challenge – Solving Clinical Problems with Engineering Solutions

March 07, 2017

The Phase II 2017 GEM Awards application period is now open!

View the full GEM Challenge website for more information and further application instructions.

Galvanizing Engineering in Medicine (GEM) is a collaboration between the UC San Diego Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute (ACTRI) and the Institute of Engineering in Medicine (IEM) that is facilitated by the UC San Diego Office of Research Affairs (ORA). GEM is pleased to announce the fourth round of competitions to identify clinical challenges for which engineering solutions can be developed and implemented. The GEM challenge is composed of two phases with the overarching goal of building a collaborative ecosystem that leverages UC San Diego’s outstanding strengths in clinical care and engineering to develop and implement innovative healthcare solutions.

Phase I of the competition invites Clinically Active UC San Diego Faculty to submit a proposal identifying a specific challenge in patient care that is amenable to an innovative engineering solution. Phase II of the competition invites Engineers to propose solutions to the top ranking Phase I proposals, with the aim of incentivizing engineers to work with clinicians to solve some of the most pressing challenges.

A description of GEM Challenge projects that have previously been selected for funding can be found on the ACTRI web site under the GEM Program.


Phase II of the GEM competition is now open.

UC San Diego Engineering Faculty are invited to propose solutions to the top Phase I proposals. Pilot funding in the range of $60,000 is anticipated for at least one project, which is expected to progress to a prototype within 12 to 18 months.

The Engineer must contact the Phase I Clinician-PI prior to submission of the Phase II application. This is intended to enable the Engineer to more fully understand the clinical problem, and the Clinician to provide input to the proposed engineering solution and budget.

It is possible for more than one Engineer to submit a solution to a specific problem, and Phase II will accept for review more than one proposed solution. Please note that even if a Phase I proposal has described an engineering solution and identified a specific engineer(s), we encourage you to either submit a separate Phase II application describing a different solution or contact the named engineering faculty for a possible collaboration. In all cases, you should discuss your ideas with the Clinician-PI.

Each Engineer may also submit a solution for up to two separate Phase I clinical problems, which must be submitted as separate Phase II proposals.

The Phase II proposals will be judged by a panel of experts in engineering based on the following criteria:

  • Significance: To what extent will the specific engineering solution address and solve the specific challenge as articulated by the clinician in Phase I?
  • Innovation: To what extent does the proposal involve a novel approach that brings to bear resources available at UC San Diego – expertise, infrastructure, other types of support, particularly in combination?
  • Feasibility: Can the engineering solution be accomplished (at least to the development of a prototype) in a 12- to 18-month time frame with a budget of $60,000?
  • Commercialization: Will the engineering solution be available to patients within a reasonable period of time?
  • Investigator: How well qualified is the investigator to collaborate with the challenge-proposing clinician(s) to solve the problem?

A selected group of faculty from the CTRI, IEM, and Rady School of Management will work with the PIs of the corresponding Phase I and Phase II winning proposals to help establish a team and budget to accomplish the goals of the project over a 12- to 18-month period.

Engineering Faculty who wish to view the GEM Phase I clinical proposals must be members of the CTRI. If you are not a member of the CTRI, please click here to join.


The application is available online. You must register as an applicant. You will be sent an email notifying you of your username and password after you register.

Entries for Phase II should be submitted using the online application and provide the following:

  1. Narrative that contains a description of the engineering approach, rationale for its potential effectiveness, resources to be utilized, feasibility, and investigator qualifications. (two pages maximum, 11-point Arial font, 1-inch margins all around)
  2. NIH-style biographical sketch including current and pending support (four pages maximum per investigator) for each member of the submitting team.
  3. Budget and Justification (total amount not to exceed $60,000) – Funds may only be used for supplies, trainee or technician salary, core lab fees, statistical support for study design, and essential equipment for prototype development. A small amount of funds may be allocated for pilot clinical studies. No funds may be used for faculty salary, travel, clerical help, or publications costs.

The deadline for submission of entries is 5 p.m. on April 28, 2017.

Please contact Dr. Deborah Spector; or Kathleen Kennedy at (858) 822-0268 with any questions about this RFA or the application process.

Source: ACTRI