A Regional Journey
As the Pittsburgh region’s first virtual healthcare innovation summit, Liftoff PGH 2020 was designed to propel Pittsburgh to the frontiers of cutting-edge health care and new solutions to the biggest health problems. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded during preparation for the summit, JHF constantly reevaluated plans to ensure the initiative would fulfill its mission of catalyzing collaboration and innovation. The result was ongoing virtual programming and conversations throughout 2020 and 2021 that sparked ingenuity among top local leaders and newcomers to Pittsburgh’s health innovation spaces.
The 2020 Liftoff PGH Experience
Throughout December 2020, over 700 participants were transported to the Liftoff PGH virtual conference center with access to more than 50 engaging webinars, workshops, and networking sessions, which all built to a two-day live broadcast with dozens of innovation experts. In total over 70 local and national speakers challenged our thinking to imagine how Pittsburgh could seize opportunities to become a leader in healthcare innovation. Participants were offered entertaining augmented reality social media tools, an immersive in-person art exhibit, and kits of goodies in addition to an array of online sessions and networking opportunities.
Leading up to the December conference, Liftoff PGH offered digital content throughout 2020. The summer Liftoff PGH in Motion speaker series featured a lineup of entrepreneurs and innovators from across the Pittsburgh region. The initiative served to spotlight the depth and breadth of ingenuity thriving throughout the pandemic, providing an insider’s look into the world of rapid research and commercialization. As a part of this speaker series, Liftoff PGH partnered with the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Business as Usual program to present an August 2020 weeklong summit, Generation Fempreneur: Women+ in the Age of Innovation, to explore the experiences of women and non-binary professionals in spaces of invention.
Inspiring and Supporting Innovation
To create a novel opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students in health innovation, Liftoff PGH launched the Ideathon Pitch Competition, which awarded a total of $50,000 in prizes to three interdisciplinary teams to develop their big-picture solutions to some of the major problems facing health care.
As a natural step after the Ideathon, JHF partnered with Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works to create a new, international arm of the 2021 “Hardware Cup” called the JHF Healthcare Safety Challenge. Startups from around the world competed for a total $60,000 in cash prizes to uncover new ideas and address the U.S. health system’s pressing need for patient safety solutions.
To educate the next generation of health innovation students, in summer 2021 JHF launched the Young Innovators Healthcare Fellowship, JHF’s first-ever fellowship for high school students, funded by grants from the Grable Foundation and the Benedum Foundation. From neighborhoods across the Pittsburgh region, youth explored healthcare careers and designed technology solutions for current healthcare problems, while gaining entrepreneurial skills and engaging with young professional mentors.
The Future of Healthcare Innovation in Pittsburgh
Throughout the life of Liftoff PGH and beyond, an incredible community of experts took up the call to action, both to recognize Pittsburgh’s current potential and to stake Pittsburgh’s rightful claim as an emerging innovation hub. At the wrap-up of Liftoff PGH, JHF issued a Regional Agenda for Leadership in Health Technology, to invite the entire Pittsburgh health innovation ecosystem to put our region on the global stage. Following the energy and inspiration of Liftoff PGH, JHF will continue to explore opportunities in health technology through health policy initiatives, to highlight how innovation can promote patient safety and quality senior care.