Harvard HealthLab (H2L) is the first accelerator at Harvard University focused on nurturing student startups geared toward social impact. Each year, we accept a cohort of 15 interdisciplinary teams working on ventures designed to advance public or planetary health. Teams receive immediate seed funding, 1-1 mentoring from academic and industry experts, access to skill-building workshops, guest speakers, and networking events, and an opportunity to earn one of three $20,000 prizes from our springboard fund. This year's cohort has been selected and applications for next year will open in early fall 2023.
The focus on social impact ventures makes Harvard HealthLab unique. So does its interdisciplinary nature. H2L was founded by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard College Lemann Program on Creativity and Entrepreneurship and its inaugural cohort includes both undergraduates and public health students – as well as graduate students from disciplines as diverse as business, design, education, engineering, government, law, and medicine. Teams also include students from Columbia, Dartmouth, MIT, the University of Quebec, and the Yale School of Public Health.
The ideas are exciting: The inaugural cohort includes a team designing a virtual reality platform to deliver therapy shaped by biofeedback technology and artificial intelligence; a project to create affordable and highly efficient water filtration systems using discarded wood; a mobile platform to help patients in rural India connect with trusted clinicians; a privacy-protected app to create a supportive community for women struggling with infertility; and much more.
Harvard HealthLab is already expanding beyond the University. The staff is developing relationships with Boston nonprofits serving low-income students and plans to bring entrepreneurship workshops to both high schools and community colleges. In addition, a Brazilian version of HealthLab is in development.
HealthLab aims to nurture a culture of entrepreneurship by helping students turn academic insights and personal passions into startups with the potential for real-world impact. At the start of each academic year, students with ideas for building a healthier world can form teams and apply to join the cohort. HealthLab seeks to promote collaboration between graduate students and Harvard undergraduates and encourages multidisciplinary teams drawing on expertise from across the university.
Selected teams will earn startup cash, receive personal mentoring, and attend specialized workshops designed to nurture skills in entrepreneurship as they work on their project. After a pitch competition in the spring, a panel of distinguished judges will award the top three teams honors — and funding to continue their enterprise. For our inaugural year, the total purse will be $100,000.
Teams can apply with any idea that advances public or planetary health, on a local or global level. HealthLab will also offer a yearly challenge prompt of an emerging problem.
HealthLab Connect is our accelerator's extension project. We partner with community and educational organizations to develop workshops that help students develop their critical and creative thinking skills and learn about entrepreneurship. Our goal is to inspire students of all ages and backgrounds to find their own path toward social impact. Together, we will make the world a better place.
Currently, HealthLab Connect is building partnerships with The Dana Farber Cancer Institute CURE Program, The Boys & Girls Club of Dorchester, and the Centro Universitário Dinâmica das Cataratas – UDC Brasil.
Who is eligible?
The HealthLab accelerator program is open to teams of current students and postdocs from across the University (no faculty or staff). Teams may include individuals from outside the University as well, but priority will be given to multi-disciplinary teams that draw heavily on the expertise of students enrolled in Harvard College or Harvard graduate schools.
Applicants must be early-stage ventures without employees and with less than $20,000 in funding.
What ventures may apply?
We’ll gladly look at any idea or venture that offers a sustainable and empathetic solution to a intractable societal problem
Need inspiration? If your venture addresses any of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, you’ll be eligible.
What is an intractable global problem?
Intractable global problems include hunger, oppression, pollution, conflict, climate change, inequities in education, human rights violations…. just to name a few.
How do you apply to HealthLab?
To apply to HealthLab's cohort, you will need to present the following components:
A global health problem
A sustainable and empathetic solution
Your venture’s unique differentiating value
A positive theory of change
A targeted and diverse team
A rough budget
We will post more detailed guidelines and an application form on our website soon.
Can I apply solo, or do I need a team?
You will need at least two members on your founding team. The team leader must be an enrolled, degree-seeking Harvard student. Our judging rubric for admission to the cohort awards more points for blended teams across schools and concentrations, consisting of undergraduate and graduate members with diverse backgrounds and multi-disciplinary areas of expertise.
Will there be mentoring and networking opportunities?
Yes. Each team will be assigned a generalist mentor to guide them through the year. In addition, each team will get mentoring from experts based on the need of the team and the venture.
We will also host several networking events for our cohort, the LPCE community, the larger Harvard community, and social entrepreneurs outside Harvard's walls.
How much commitment will HealthLab require?
Advancing in HealthLab after acceptance into the cohort will require four hours monthly at the very least. The expectation is that the members of the cohort are motivated to be there, self-selecting, and eager to take advantage of the opportunities HealthLab offers.
What else can I expect if my team makes the cut and joins the cohort?
Good question. Thank you for asking. If you are accepted into our cohort, your team will receive additional opportunities to engage with other creative entrepreneurial communities on campus and beyond.
You will have the opportunity to present at follow-up events.
You will be asked to prepare a final report and apply to our HealthLab Pitch Competition in April for the chance to win one of three grand prizes of $20,000 each to continue to take your idea forward.
You will have the opportunity to engage with our HealthLab summer outreach program, which aims to bring creative entrepreneurial and public health strategies to under-resourced high schools locally and globally.
Are funds I receive from HealthLab taxable?
Yes, please know all funds from HealthLab are taxable. Harvard shall not be responsible for any applicable taxes or for increasing the funds to cover any applicable tax required to be withheld.
How can I support HealthLab?
Thank you for your interest in working with HealthLab as we support students in their innovation journey. Please consider supporting us by filling out this questionnaire.