idea hub.

The mission of the SPH idea hub is to initiate new projects with transformative potential, incubate novel solutions that improve population health, and integrate those solutions around the globe.

We help researchers think like entrepreneurs.

By encouraging our researchers to think like entrepreneurs—to take risks, and to envision how their ideas might “scale up”— idea hub positions SPH’s best minds to make a real difference. We do this through forming collaborations with non-traditional public health partners across industry, government, and NGOs to help them navigate the rich resources of Boston University and facilitate the translation of ideas into products and services.

idea hub was launched in early 2020 and has already supported several successful initiatives, including:

  • COVID policy tracking. COVID policies are rapidly changing as we learn more about the disease. SPH Assistant Professor Paul Shafer and 14 graduate student interns from the schools of public health, hospitality administration, and social work, collaborated with Starbucks Coffee Company to track COVID policies affecting retail business and restaurants in the US and Canada. This database was created for employees to reference as they facilitated store re-openings and implement safety protocols.
  • Effects of COVID social distancing policies. For much of 2020, there was little data on the effectiveness of social distancing in reducing the spread of new coronavirus infections. Research by SPH Professor Greg Wellenius, in collaboration with Google, provided insight into how government mandates on social distancing impacted the spread of the disease.

idea hub facilitates faculty pilot funding. Pilot funding provides opportunities for faculty to demonstrate proof of concept or to collect preliminary data, equipment, or research assistance necessary to strengthen a larger grant application. For junior faculty, pilots frequently assist in launching an independent research career. Founded in 2013, the pilot award program has supported more than 60 faculty-initiated innovations and has a 22 to 1 ROI.

Research supported by the pilot award program include:

  • Child diabetes management. Diabetes in young people costs families over $1.8 billion a year. SPH Associate Professor Monica Wang aims to reduce this cost burden by exploring mobile health interventions that will enhance parent and child diabetes self-management. This research informs new technologies in the management of chronic conditions with mobile devices.
  • Fertility in older women and oral contraceptive use. Families are waiting longer and longer to have children, elevating the need for fertility research. SPH Professor Lauren Wise and her team are delivering answers to important questions about fertility in our times.

Today, idea hub is seeking support for emerging projects, including:

  • Addressing vaccine hesitancy. Many essential workers are people of color and/or from low-income communities. These populations have a historic mistrust of vaccines, which will slow long-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. SPH faculty member Elaine Nsoesie has a proposal to collaborate with local community organizations to identify critical factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy and utilize communications programs to increase vaccine uptake.
  • Health effects of air pollution from wildfires. Climate change has led to an explosive growth in the number and size of wildfires across the western US. However, the health effects of air pollution from these fires is still not well understood. BUSPH professors Patrick Kinney and Greg Wellenius are ready to launch the first large-scale study in the US to quantify the impacts of fire smoke on the health of individuals across the lifespan, from pregnancy and infancy to end of life.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease(CKD). Close to 700 million people around the world suffer from CKD, and more than 1 million die from it each year. Peritoneal dialysis may be the solution to reducing mortality from CKD, particularly in low-resource and rural settings without access to expensive dialysis equipment. SPH faculty Madeleine Scammell (SPH’08) and Daniel Brooks (SPH’88, ’02) have a proposal for solving the technical challenges of deploying peritoneal dialysis in locations where it is needed most.
  • Projects focused on student mental health and burnout reduction for clinicians.
  • A doctoral student leadership and mentorship program.

Donors can help advance these projects, along with idea hub’s mission to accelerate improvements in population health, by sponsoring faculty or student pilot funding for novel research ideas.

For help exploring which options best fit your interests, please reach out to Jacoba van Heugten, Assistant Dean of Development, at 617-358-3321 or at