What is a
grand challenge?

It is a problem that is large, complex and multi-faceted. Solving this problem requires a combination of technologies, treatments, approaches and/or policies; and the solution will positively impact a great number of people.

Frequently Asked Questions about the UAB Grand Challenge

1. What is a grand challenge?

A grand challenge is an ambitious but achievable goal that harnesses science, technology, policy and innovation to solve an important local, state, national or global problem, and that has the potential to capture the public’s imagination. It is a problem that is large, complex and multi-faceted. Solving this problem requires a combination of technologies, treatments, approaches and/or policies. It can involve scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, city and state officials, foundations, outreach organizations and others. The solution will positively impact a great number of people.

2. Why do a grand challenge?

Grand challenges energize the community, academic and otherwise, to develop a sense of possibility, an appreciation of risk and an urgent commitment to accelerate progress. Grand challenges create a complex and cross-cutting ecosystem by coupling the university with businesses, industries, community leaders, donors, benefactors, government agencies, law makers and the general public to solve immense problems facing society. In addition, grand challenges will in time bear fruit in many other areas that help the economy.

3. What is the difference between a small or large grant and a grand challenge project?

  • A small or large grant generally fulfills the needs and requirements of the sponsor, is very focused on a particular problem, is limited to one or a few subject matter experts, and has a defined schedule.
  • A grand challenge is a large project that helps catalyze breakthroughs that advance the human condition. A grand challenge is generally tackled by a large team of subject-matter experts, community leaders, foundations, entrepreneurs, law makers and others. It is significantly larger in scope than a grant and requires support from a variety of resources to be successful. A grand challenge can:
    • Help tackle important problems related to energy, health, education, social justice, the economy, the environment, national security, global development and others
    • Help create the industries and jobs of the future
    • Expand the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and the world around us
    • Serve as a “North Star” for collaboration between academia with the public and private sectors

4. How do I get involved with the UAB Grand Challenge?

Contact Dr. Lee Moradi for information on engaging with the UAB Grand Challenge program.