EU commits €1m to help save lives of mothers and babies during childbirth

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EU commits €1m to help save lives of mothers and babies during childbirth

Brussels, 28 April 2016

The European Commission, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and MSD for Mothers today launched the Birth Day Challenge, with the aim of identifying and bringing to market innovative solutions preventing death and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Up to three cash prizes will be awarded to the innovator(s) with the most effective solutions, to assist in the realisation of their idea or development. Proposed solutions could be of a clinical, technological or managerial nature, and should take full account of relevant social factors.

The European Commission has committed €1 million under the EU's research and innovation programme Horizon 2020, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledging another €1 million and a further €500,000 donated by the MSD for Mothers programme of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corporation.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "Mortality rates during childbirth remain alarmingly high in many parts of the world. With about 99% of maternal deaths occurring in developing countries, we must find innovative ways to support the modernisation of healthcare systems, to prevent the unnecessary deaths of mothers and their infants".

According to UNICEF, 5.9 million children per year die before their 5th birthday, of which 2.65 million are newborn babies. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 300,000 women died in 2015 from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. According to WHO (see here), for every woman dying of pregnancy-related complications every year, between 20 and 30 others experience permanent side-effects that undermine their ability to function normally.

The rules of contest are now available online – applications are open from now until 6 September 2017.


Horizon Prizes are challenges that offer cash rewards to individuals or teams to assist in the meeting of a defined challenge. The challenge acts as an incentive for innovation by clearly stating the mission of the applicants, but not the sector from which the applicant should come or how the mission should be achieved.

The European Commission is introducing a set of challenge prizes under Horizon 2020, the EU's €77 billion research and innovation programme running from 2014 to 2020.

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