Booz Allen Foundation Unites Innovators and Experts in the COVID-19 Fight

Nov 25, 2020 8:00 AM ET

Now months into the COVID-19 crisis, how have the world’s brightest innovators been working to prevent the spread of the disease, protect caregivers, improve care delivery, and educate our communities? And how will technology reshape how we prepare for the health crises of the future?

To discuss these questions and more, the Booz Allen Foundation, an independent 501(c)(3) organization, hosted “Innovation Unlocked,” a virtual event convening high-profile speakers to discuss challenges posed by the pandemic, in addition to hearing from the 21 recipients of the Foundation’s Innovation Fund grants, awarded to help develop critical COVID-19 solutions. 

“One of the primary goals of the Booz Allen Foundation is to convene those working at the intersection of innovation and impact,” said Nancy Laben, co-founding board member of the Booz Allen Foundation. “We established the Innovation Fund to improve COVID-19 relief efforts and truly empower people to make a difference—now we get to see what that initial impact looks like, and what challenges remain in fighting the pandemic.”

Asking the right questions, understanding the problems

The virtual event featured innovators and experts including: 

  • Judy Monroe, MD, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation

  • Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of The Portland Trust and Bridges Ventures

  • Elizabeth Segran, PhD, a senior staff writer with Fast Company

  • Leezel Tanglao, a journalist and a project director with the Caretaker Project, an Innovation Fund grantee

  • Nancy Laben, Board Member, Booz Allen Foundation and EVP, Booz Allen Hamilton

  • Tony Mitchell, Board Member, Booz Allen Foundation and EVP, Booz Allen Hamilton

  • Susan Penfield, EVP and Chief Innovation Officer, Booz Allen Hamilton

The hour-long general session, followed by targeted breakouts, covered a wide range of topics, from pivoting relief efforts to “pandemic fatigue” and beyond. Participants posed questions about how to build the systems and public trust necessary for successful vaccine deployment, and how new technologies can advance and commercialize innovation in a COVID-19 environment, while celebrating the new partnerships, programs, and possibilities that have emerged to date.

“Innovation might involve emerging technology like Machine Intelligence or more traditional capabilities,” said Tony Mitchell, Booz Allen Foundation board member. “No matter the medium, it begins with asking the right questions and knowing what problems we’re solving.”

Shining a spotlight on COVID-19 solutions 

The “Innovation Unlocked” event also featured videos, interviews, and updates from the grantees of the Booz Allen Foundation Innovation Fund—21 nonprofits, university teams, entrepreneurs, and startups who received a total of nearly $1 million total to solve critical issues caused by COVID-19 and address the pandemic’s wide-ranging impacts.

The Booz Allen Foundation launched the fund in April to encourage new systems, products, approaches, technologies, delivery systems, and processes to solve problems related to the pandemic—all with the goal of empowering winners to truly make a difference, rooted in collaboration and innovation. 

“To be purposeful and persistent in fostering a culture of innovation, you can’t go it alone. You need to partner with leaders, startups, incubators and experts across fields,” said Booz Allen Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Susan Penfield. “A holistic, collaborative approach is necessary to truly empower people to change the world.”

Nearly 3,000 applications were submitted to the Booz Allen Foundation Innovation Fund, coming from all 50 states, four U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., with 21 winners determined following an extensive evaluation process. One constant among proposals submitted: “Creating truly groundbreaking solutions that address critical needs, build community resilience, protect vulnerable populations, and support the safe return to work,” said Laben. 

Learn more about the Booz Allen Foundation, the 21 Innovation Fund grantees, and Booz Allen’s COVID-19 response.