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22 Sep 16 04 Nov 18

The Sapling Nursery - grow your ideas

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

You can apply for up to 50,000 Euro and six months to turn your ideas 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. However, if your idea requires testing or collaboration with field staff or patients, you need to be in the field to apply, or to have a field team on board from the outset.

Sapling Nursery is not taking proposals at the moment. The next round will be in early 2019. Find out what projects got funding in the last round, here. If you have an idea that you would like to discuss for next time, click the button below.


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. This can be anything from a new product or service to a support function or model of care.

Previous projects have included (click the project names for details):

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 you are 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 5th round of the Sapling Nursery is now closed for proposals. Watch this space for dates for the next round.

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

  • TBC - Call for proposals opens
  • TBC - Call for proposal closes
  • TBC - Proposals reviewed by Sapling Nursery Committee (interdisciplinary panel)
  • TBC - Pitch day for applicants with successful proposals (via skype or similar)
  • TBC - All applicants informed of committee decison

How do you apply?

When the 6th round opens, you will be able to submit your idea or project to the Sapling Nursery fund using on application - click the button below to see the application form template.


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 development 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 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 / OCA Public Health Department at MSF UK.

© 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