22 Sep 16 21 Nov 17

The Sapling Nursery - grow your ideas

The Sapling Nursery is a fund to help you develop and test new approaches to field challenges.

You could be awarded up to 50,000 Euro and six months to turn your idea into a real way of improving MSF's impact in the field.

The fund is available to MSF OCA staff from all departments; both in the field and in headquarters.

The deadline for proposals is now closed until next time (likely to be May / June 2018).


What is innovation?

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For us, innovation means a new or different way of doing things that creates value or has an impact. 

So innovation can be a:

  • new way of hanging IV bags safely and securely in Land Cruisers during patient transfers
  • different approach to pharmacy management through biometric patient identification
  • Digital Community Health Worker position in a field team 

What we're looking for

Proposals are judged on the following criteria

  • Will your idea improve the care we provide or give people better access to care?
  • Is it an innovative new approach for MSF?
  • Could your idea scale? Could it improve the way we work in other projects or contexts?
  • Can you develop and test your idea within six months and a budget of 50,000 Euro?
  • Does your line manager support your proposal?
  • Does it need research ethics oversight? Check the Ethical Framework for Innovation  

We'll also judge your proposal on your ability to managage and present your project. Make sure your proposal is well-written and developed.

How can you spend the money?

If your successful you choose how to manage your project.

As long as your responsible and transparent, you can spend the funds on whatever makes your idea work. This can be materials, expertise, research, services and personnel.
We can support you with guidance and resources throughout the project.

When can you apply?

The 4th round of the Sapling Nursery is now closed for proposals.

If you have applied, please make sure you make a note of the pitch day as you'll need to be available online.

  • 16 October - Call for proposals opens
  • 20 November - Call for proposal closes
  • 29 November - Proposals reviewed by Sapling Nursery Committee (interdisciplinary OCA panel, plus one external expert)
  • 8 December - Pitch day for applicants with successful proposals (via skype or similar)
  • 11 December - All applicants informed of committee decison

How do you apply?

Unfortunately, the deadline for proposals is now closed until next time (likely to be May / June 2018).

What support is available? 

We can:

  • mentor you if you want to discuss your idea before applying
  • put you in contact with people you may need to fulfill the project
  • suggest develpoment and management tools 

If you can't start the project immediately, you can delay the start of the project by up to three months. This won't affect the six month limit.

There's a lot of competition for funding. If your proposal is not successful, you'll receive feedback from the selection committee. You're can use this feedback to apply again in future rounds.

If you've any questions or want to discuss an idea, please email pete.masters@london.msf.org, Medical Innovation Advisor in the Manson Unit at MSF UK.

Examples of funded proposals

The following are examples of successful proposals: 

© Luca Sola

 Read more  

Innovation: IV fluids for Land Cruisers >

Josie Gilday & Anup RaviNurse & Logistician

Lessons learned from previous projects

  • Define a clear problem: Your solution should then benefit our field operations and our patients
  • Seek to learn: projects that fails to learn or share lessons are failed projects 
  • Keep ethics in mind: check the Ethical Framework for Innovation to see if your project requires research ethics oversight 
  • Be prepared for failure: innovations can fall short of their ambitions
  • Good project management is key: make sure you have good project management techniques in place