Challenge 1- Innovations to Support Caregivers

Innovation in the Care Economy one-pager with statistics about caregiving and technology the landscape, market opportunity, benefits and focus areasCircle with illustration of woman on cell phone Challenge Goal

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened our awareness of the critical role family caregivers play in our society and the ways they impact our healthcare system and the overall economy.  We launched this Challenge to find digital health solutions that support caregivers in facing new challenges to caring for loved ones and that help them return to work.

Unpaid caregivers are all around us. More than 53 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult or a child with special needs. Three in five caregivers are women,  29% are from Generation X, and 23% are Millennials. Over 60% of caregivers are employed and they provide an average of 23.7 hours of care per week on top of their paid work.

Many more people became caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic as elders were isolated from their support systems and family members felt unsafe in congregate housing and assisted living facilities. Caregivers were also disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, reporting worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.

This Challenge was designed to find digital health innovations that can help caregivers return to work and face the challenges to caregiving that were exacerbated by the pandemic.

Program Overview


Startups, entrepreneurs, and intrapreneurs with digital health solutions aimed at helping caregivers recover from the pandemic were eligible to apply. Intrapreneurs are innovators from within existing, mature companies who have ideas for a new, innovative product or service outside the company’s traditional product line.

Up to eight applicants will be selected to participate in a three-month accelerator program run by Lever, Inc. The accelerator will offer a  curriculum of lean startup workshops and tailored expert mentoring to help participants develop their solution, business plan, and go-to-market strategy. Participants are required to attend all six startup workshops. Dates for the workshops are posted below. During the accelerator, participants will be assessed on their testing and validation needs for their product and will be matched with members of the MA Digital Health Sandbox Network, a group of cutting-edge research and development organizations supporting digital health companies. Participants will work with their Sandbox partners to scope detailed, six-month testing and validation projects.

The accelerator will culminate in a judged competition in November 2021 where participants will pitch both their product and their Sandbox project. Judges will select one winner to receive $100,000 in tuition to complete their proposed Sandbox project and three runners-up to receive $50,000 in tuition for their Sandbox projects. The funding will go directly to the Sandboxes to cover their fees. This level of tuition can typically cover extensive user experience testing, access to cutting-edge lab facilities and subject matter experts, or a pilot in a healthcare setting.

  • Applications were due July 30, 2021
  • Finalists will be announced by the end of August.
  • Contact Program Manager, Katie Green, at with any questions.

Workshop Dates

  • Kickoff meeting: Friday, September 10
  • Workshop 1: Friday, September 17
  • Workshop 2: Friday, October 1
  • Workshop 3: Friday, October 15
  • Workshop 4: Friday, October 29
  • Workshop 5: Friday, November 5
  • Pitch Mentoring: Friday, November 12
  • Pitch Event: Thursday, November 18 

The kickoff meeting will take one hour. Workshops will take two hours.


Challenge 1 Information Session Recording

Challenge Areas


The following are examples of challenges that we believe can be addressed by digital health solutions. This is not an exhaustive list and any applicants with ideas for supporting caregivers are encouraged to apply.

Direct Supports for Caregivers

Solutions that Make Caregiving Easier

  • During the pandemic, caregivers faced increased social isolation and stress and had access to fewer resources, disproportionately impacting their behavioral and mental health. 
  • Employers struggle to support their caregivers, particularly during the pandemic, and are in search of low-cost, easy-to-implement solutions to help their caregiving employees return to the office. 
  • Caregivers have fewer social supports and options for respite due to the limitations of the pandemic.
  • Family caregivers often are the first to notice subtle changes in their loved one’s condition. Bi-directional communication about these changes with their loved one’s medical care team is critical to delivering the best possible person-centered care.
  • Caregivers have dealt with more transportation challenges during the pandemic, particularly those who rely on public transportation. 
  • Many caregivers and their loved ones face barriers to accessing telemedicine, including no, or limited, technical skills.  
  • Many more caregivers are supporting their family members from a distance and need solutions like communication tools, remote monitoring devices, and supports for making decisions on end-of-life care and healthcare proxies remotely. 
  • To decrease stress, improve their own health outcomes, and help them return to work, caregivers need solutions that help their loved ones with activities of daily living or that prevent adverse events. 



  • Applicants must propose a new solution that is not yet widely commercially available. 
  • Applicants may be located anywhere in the US. However, Participants must be willing to participate in a pitch event at the end of the accelerator. Winners of the Challenge must be willing to participate in a promotional event at the conclusion of the program. The pitch event will take place in December 2021 and the promotional event is likely to take place in 2023. Both events are currently being planned as in-person events in Massachusetts. 
  • Participants in the accelerator must agree to track and report on the following metrics for five years after the program ends to comply with federal reporting requirements:
    • Number of jobs created at your company
    • Number of new customers gained 
    • Number of new patents, copyrights, or trademarks obtained
    • Diversity of your board members and/or executive team
Blue Button with text that reads: Downlod the Request for Applications Blue button with text that reads: Learn More about the Sandbox Network