Funding Opportunity: Catalyzing Equitable Artificial Intelligence (AI) Use to Improve Global Health by Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC)

About the Organization

Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a not-for-profit Section 8, Schedule B, Public Sector Enterprise, set up by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India as an Interface Agency to strengthen and empower the emerging Biotech enterprise to undertake strategic research and innovation, addressing nationally relevant product development needs.

BIRAC is a industry-academia interface and implements its mandate through a wide range of impact initiatives, be it providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, technology transfer, IP management and handholding schemes that help bring innovation excellence to the biotech firms and make them globally competitive. In its Eight years of existence, BIRAC has initiated several schemes, networks and platforms that help to bridge the existing gaps in the industry-academia Innovation research and facilitate novel, high quality affordable products development through cutting edge technologies. BIRAC has initiated partnerships with several national and global partners to collaborate and deliver the salient features of its mandate.

Vision: “To Stimulate, foster and enhance the strategic research and innovation capabilities of the Indian biotech industry, particularly start-ups and SME’s, for creation of affordable products addressing the needs of the largest section of society”.

About the Grant

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has significant potential to transform healthcare around the world. But as AI technology continues to advance, there is an urgent need to position lowand middle-income countries (LMICs) to lead on the design and co-creation of AI-enabled technologies – thereby helping to improve the health and well-being of their women, children, and vulnerable communities. Aligned with the Global and Government of India’s need for an equitable and responsible approach to the use of AI, Grand Challenges India intends to launch a call for proposals emphasizing AI solutions that are locally driven and owned hence more relevant to address the needs of people they intend to serve and more likely to be accepted and used by local communities.

Responsible global use of AI entails a safe, equitable, transparent, reliable, and beneficial process that is adhered to with a high level of accountability. As the world rapidly moves to seize AI’s opportunities, it is imperative to monitor and mitigate the safety, ethical, equity, and reliability dimensions of AI deployment. This will allow the enormous resilience, creativity, and commitment of researchers, scientists, and policymakers to capture the full capability of AI for lasting good.

Given that there is a need for an equitable and responsible approach to the use of AI and specifically Large Language Models (LLMs) in LMICs, the call is intended to identify nurture, and catalyze the creativity, energy, and skills that researchers, implementers, governments, and technical partners have demonstrated in solving specific challenges through LLMs. This RFP will serve as a platform for potentially transformative AI solutions to improve the lives and conditions of numerous vulnerable communities.

The Challenge:

The purpose of this call is to seek innovative approaches to the use of LLMs to advance health in India and across the globe. Given the numerous open and non-open-source AI tools, we encourage/expect the applicant to select the tool most appropriate to their use case and context.

The call is soliciting proposals that seek to solve problems in the following areas:

Clinical Decision Support

  • Tools for that can be used by frontline health workers or clinicians for improving the diagnosis and management of health conditions and/or healthcare delivery.
  • Support for health guideline refinement and adherence
  • Diagnostics interpretation, reducing cost, and overcoming at-adistance barriers

Population Health & Policymaking

  • Support for policymakers in leveraging new and timely insights through routinely available, underutilized, or unused data sources of text and voice.
  • Reduce time delays to transition new evidence into policy and implementation, as well as optimizing resource allocation.
  • Approaches that can distill information and make timely recommendations from complex and evolving datasets (e.g., forecasting disease epidemics and progression)

Support for Frontline Health Workers

  • Personalized coaching for semi-skilled FLWs that is tailored, highly relevant, and leads to an improved quality of service and/or lower costs.
  • LLM supported solutions for workflow management (e.g., writing discharge summaries, etc.)
  • Use of LLMs to support skilled FLWs in delivering higher quality services and improved efficiency

Health Communications & Patient Journeys

  • Develop impactful and targeted communications tools that bridge language and literacy gaps when communicating health-related knowledge, messaging, and advice (i.e., translating from local dialects, text-to-voice, etc).
  • Provide timely, trusted, and tailored advice to end users who are marginalized and in so doing overcome significant cultural, access and stigma concerns.
  • Support patients in understanding and managing their own health status and care regiment

Health Systems Strengthening

  • Health Systems Strengthening a. Use of LLMs to improve interoperability of health systems and programs

Ideally, the proposal will:

  • Work on a specific problem that has been identified as a priority in India.
  • Leverage AI to increase productivity and efficiency in healthcare.
  • Contribute to the body of evidence related to AI use in our country and across global health.
  • Foster innovation with AI in the interest of supporting public health decision-makers and affected communities.
  • Place a strong emphasis on systematically observing, validating, and quantifying the improved outcomes balanced with cost-effectiveness from AI use.
  • Conform with global principles of AI use i) to do no harm ii) to leverage technology against the toughest/most relevant global health problem iii) ensure that projects are led from our country even though there may be a high-income country (HIC) partner iv) local voices and ideas are captured throughout the process, and v) there is a dissemination plan of the outcomes of the projects.
  • Give local communities an opportunity to provide their own perspective and cultural context so that they can decide on both i) their own thresholds for safe usage and ii) the overall utility of AI within their own lives.

Priority will be given to proposals that have:

  • an explicit request for an AI-supported project in India.
  • those projects that have already completed a pilot before this Grand Challenges call, and/or,
  • projects that have lessons/tools that can be transferred to other use cases/ situations/ contexts with minimal change.
  • Emphasize importance of community-specific, culturally appropriate, and representative AI

Program Objective:

Considering that there is an urgent need to position low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to lead on the design and co-creation of AI-enabled technologies, this Grand Challenges call is seeking innovative approaches to the use of LLMs to help to improve the health and well-being of their women, children, and vulnerable communities.

What We Are Looking For:

  • Proposals that demonstrate clear applications of LLMs to address a specific challenge related to global health in the Nation
  • Proposals that demonstrate the grantee has a firm grasp of the application, has done some of the stakeholder mapping, and has an engagement plan with local decision makers to ensure the proposal is successful.
  • Proposals that present a high leverage and scalability opportunity.
  • Proposals that outline a clear, feasible, and reproducible methodology.
  • Proposals that have timely access to data, decision-makers’ time and interest in using AI
  • Proposals that articulate how the project will lead to impact in the nearterm and how those benefits will be sustained past the lifetime of the project.
  • Proposals that are driven by a shared commitment to open science, data sharing, and building collaboration and analysis infrastructure to enable discoveries that will benefit people everywhere.
  • We particularly encourage applications from women-led organizations and applications involving projects led by women.

Funding pattern:

The funding level is a grant of up to USD $100,000.00, for each project, provided to the organization, with a term of up to 12 months. The project needs to be led by investigators in India. Global partners may be included, but proposals must demonstrate at least 80% of the funding is going to an organization within the Country. Application budgets should be commensurate with the scope of work proposed.


This RFP is India-led; the programme is open to Indian academics, research institutions, companies, society, trusts and foundations.

Project cost will be sanctioned to researchers and innovators who are Indian individuals orIndian entities*, we also encourage partnerships with researchers of national/internationalexpertise, subject to the call guidelines.

This call is open to,

  • In case of the applicant being an Indian academic scientist, researchers and Ph.D students (citizen of India) who must be willing to incubate at a recognized incubator submit a letter of intent for same.
  • Companies
  • Companies incorporated under the Indian Companies Act, 2013 having a minimumof 51% Indian ownership.
  • Limited Liability Partnership
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) incorporated under the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 having a minimum half of the persons who subscribed their names to the LLP document as its Partners should be Indian citizens.
  • Indian institution/ universities/ public research organization
  • Academic institutions established in India and having NAAC/ UGC/ AICTE or any equivalent recognition certificate or any other Public/Government supported organization
  • Society/ Trust/ NGO/ Foundation/ Association
  • Society/ Trust/ NGO/ Foundation/ Association established in India under therelevant Indian Law having at least half of the stakeholders (partners/ trustees/ members/ associates etc.) as Indians.

Experts of the relevant discipline as mentors should be a part of the proposal such as healthcare professionals, data analytics experts, m-health specialists, management experts, logistics experts, M&E experts among others.

Through national and international collaboration, we expect that sharing experimental methods, data, and resources will ultimately improve the ability to compare and validate local research findings and to develop interventions and products that can have impact at a greater scale.

How to Apply

Applications are required to be submitted online only.

Call closes – 23rd December 2023 (Online portal will close at 1:00 pm on 23rd December 2023).

For more information, visit: Link

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