Program Overview

About Procurement by Co-Design

The future of health depends on innovation — from individual well-being to the broader system that supports it. Technological breakthroughs keep medical science moving forward. Progressive approaches to the delivery of health services benefit more lives by accelerating the application of those breakthroughs.

So what if those who deliver services and those who create the breakthroughs, were to join forces?

Innovation Partnership: Procurement by Co-Design is a unique program that offered healthcare-service providers something rare: the opportunity to participate in the development of innovative solutions before procuring them. In turn, technology and service innovators with scalable business models could gain unprecedented access to end users and validate use cases to remain competitive.

Using a collaborative design approach, the program targeted complex systemic problems while complying with the Broader Public Sector (BPS) Procurement Directive.

Grants competition

Using a cohort approach, select teams received grants based on the recommendations of an independent judging panel:

  • $15 – 25k for committing to using the procurement by co-design process
  • Up to $50k towards acquiring the co-designed validated solutions

The program took the form of a competition, attracting teams of healthcare providers and technology vendors. The competition followed the new, streamlined procurement approach, and encouraged the procurement of validated solutions by offering up to $50k in awards to the teams that developed them.

Program Details

Program Stages


  1. Healthcare providers publicize (on the MaRS website and other channels as appropriate) “Challenge Briefs” that describe the challenge, the desired outcomes and the evaluation criteria to be used for vendor selection.
  2. Individual vendors respond with “Innovator Briefs,” describing their proposed solution.
  3. Providers review these submissions to determine a shortlist of vendors, inviting them to pitch and discuss their solutions.

Design and prototyping

  1. Provider and vendor(s) conduct user interviews and site observations to gain a deeper understanding of, and empathy for whom they are designing.
  2. Provider and vendor(s) collaborate on a solution, and produce a prototype. This phase is iterative and can have many design cycles.
  3. Based on the learnings from previous iterations, the provider and vendor team scopes a minimal viable product to evaluate outcomes and a viable business model for procuring the solution. The team uses the results to make a final decision whether to move forward.


  1. If their decision is favourable, the provider has the option of procuring the new solution.

Eligible projects

  • Are innovative and offer a clear approach to designing a solution to a provider’s pressing problem
  • Can be rapidly designed, prototyped and tested in context of intended use (e.g., clinical, back-office) at minimal cost
  • Solution will cost less than $100k to procure

Download our FAQ to learn more

Co-Design principles

Participants should be willing to follow the co-design principles of

  • participation: co-design is a collaborative process in which as many stakeholders as possible have input
  • development: co-design evolves as a process, maturing and adapting as it takes place
  • co-ownership and power: co-design involves a transformation of ordinary power relations between stakeholders and aims to generate collective ownership
  • outcomes and intent: co-design has a practical focus, notwithstanding that unplanned processes and transformations are likely to occur as collateral effects of the process


These resources provide guidance on how procurement by co-design works and how to complete a challenge brief.

Cohort 2 Launch Day Materials

Submitting a Challenge – For Providers

Responding to a Challenge – For Vendors

Applying for a Co-Design Grant – For Provider-Vendor Teams

Cohort 1 Journey

We launched cohort 1 in August 2016. Here is a snapshot of what happened:

August 16, 2016: Launch

  • We rallied the healthcare provider community
  • 29 challenge briefs came from Providers across ON: long term care, home care, hospitals of all sizes
  • 163 innovator briefs came from technology innovators

October 18: “Dialog Day”

  • Providers filtered through those responses and shortlisted their favourites
  • They met – vendors talks about themselves and what kinds of solutions they could make
  • 22 collaborative teams were formed

November 24: Intro to co-design

  • Teams learned about discovery and ideation through workshops and webinars
  • They took our design journal templates and guidebooks back with them and
    • observed
    • questioned
    • mapped
    • engaged front-line staff
    • thought about the possibilities
    • and the constraints
    • polished their ideas into solutions
    • planned how to test their ideas

February 24, 2017: Prototype pitch day

  • Some teams decided not to move forward with their project
  • 17 teams came back and pitched for the prototyping grant
  • 41 teams rose above the rest and went on to
    • develop their solutions and pilot them
    • measure success through outcomes
    • negotiate new business relationships

July 21: Solutions day

  • 3 winning teams received grants to procure the solution
    • Personal support workers gained a tool to ind more time to spend with clients
    • Physicians now have a better way to get onboarded at a new hospital
    • Schedulers can better match their client needs with staff

Cohort 1 Challenges
Here is a sampling of challenges submitted at the start of cohort 1:

Cohort 1 Grant Winners

Cohort 2 Journey

We launched cohort 2 in September 2017. Here is a snapshot of what happened:

September 28, 2017: Launch

  • We rallied SSOs, GPOs, and the heathcare provider community
  • They learned to “dig deeper” into problems and frame them
  • 10 challenges briefs came from Providers across ON: homecare, hospitals of all sizes
  • 58 innovators briefs came from technology vendors: health, retail and artificial intelligence

November 6, 2017: “Dialogue Day”

  • Providers and shortlisted vendors met and talked themselves as innovation partners
  • 7 innovation partner teams were formed

November 17, 2017: Co-design grant awarded

  • 4 teams were awarded $25,000 to move forward with their co-design projects
  • 1 team decided to move forward without the grant funding

November 20, 2017: Discovery workshop

  • Teams learned about
    • Importance of visual communication
    • Mapping the challenge, the stakeholders, the journey of their intended users
    • Uncovering unexpressed needs
  • Teams went into “the field” using our tools to discover more about their problem and stakeholders

January 15, 2018: Ideation and concept prototypes

  • Teams came together to share their insights from their discovery work
  • Stretched their thinking on the ideal journey for their users and came up with solution ideas
  • Went out into the field with rough concept prototypes to test the most important parts about their solution using: storyboards, interviews, video animatics, role play

March 7, 2018: Intro to minimal viable prototype

  • Teams carefully planned out the development and evaluation their solution idea
  • Teams engaged with decision makers to set the targets to meet for procurement
  • Experts weighed and provided guidance on how to improve their plans and business models
  • 3 teams negotiated new business relationships after a successful MVP evaluation

July 20, 2018: Solutions pitch day

  • 3 teams received grants to go towards the procurement of their solution
    • Patients and caregivers can communicate directly and exchange information online
    • Administrators can more efficiently move patients from the hospital to alternative care
    • Prosthetics can save time for making sockets while learning new skills in 3D printing
    • Hospital volunteers have new tools to better direct visitors around their facilities
    • Lab technicians can save hours of time and anxiety through automated slide archival
    • Front-line staff have new tools to better predict and prevent patient falls in the hospital

Cohort 2 Challenges

Here are the challenges that were worked on cohort 2 project teams:

Check out the blog post on who won the final procurement grants from Cohort 2 here.

Case Studies

Trinity Village Care Centre and VitalHub: Innovation Partnership in Healthcare

Trinity Village and VitalHub were one of three procurement grant winners from the first cohort of the Procurement by Co-Design program. They blazed a trail and demonstrated how innovation partnership can lead to a practical and impactful solution to a pressing and complex healthcare challenge.

This case study examines how Trinity Village and VitalHub have achieved their success to date. The report provides an overview of the solution, how they co-designed it and key insights into:

  • Drivers of success
  • Challenges and lessons learned
  • Impact of the co-designed solution.

Innovation Procurement at Markham Stouffville Hospital

Markham Stouffville Hospital and VitalHub were one of three procurement grant winners from the first cohort of the Procurement by Co-Design program. The hospital learned how to be an organization committed to innovation, and will continue to build and sustain an innovation unit in a healthcare setting.

This case study examines how Markham Stouffville Hospital and VitalHub have achieved their success to date. The report provides an overview of the solution, how they co-designed it and key insights into:

  • How to forge ahead despite setbacks
  • Elements of an innovation partnership model
  • Lessons for innovation partnerships
  • Innovation partnerships and an innovation portfolio approach.

Innovation Procurement and High Complexity: 3D Prosthetics with Sunnybrook and Nia

Sunnybrook Hospital and Nia Technologies Inc participated in the second cohort of the Procurement by Co-Design program. The hospital explored how to change an industry practice through innovation, and will continue to build on this exploration through patient trials in a healthcare setting.

This case study examines how Sunnybrook Hospital and Nia Technologies Inc have achieved their success to date. The report provides an overview of the emerging solution, how they co-designed it and key insights into:

  • Considering complexity and disruption in an industry
  • Defining an innovation partnership with a not-for-profit
  • Designing a business model
  • Involving patients in an innovation partnership

Optimizing Healthcare Transitions: Innovation Partnership with Kingston Health Sciences Centre, Bayshore and Verto

Kingston Health Sciences CentreBayshore and Verto were one of three procurement grant winners from the second cohort of the Procurement by Co-Design program. Using innovation, the partners learned how to seamlessly work together to improve how patients transition from acute care in hospital to more appropriate home and community care settings.

This case study examines how Kingston Health Sciences CentreBayshore and Verto have achieved their success to date. The report provides an overview of the solution, how they co-designed it and key insights into:

  • How to pivot and reframe a solution
  • Collaborating with multiple partners
  • Testing a solution in a fluctuating environment
  • Scaling innovation in other settings


Reflections from Procurement by Co-Design participants

These video moments capture reflections from participants of cohort 2, who give their perspectives on participating in a procurement by co-design partnership. They provide insight on their top highlights from the experience, how their thinking has changed about healthcare innovation, the aspects of a good co-design partner, and advice for others wanting to form a similar partnership.

Watch video 1   |   Watch video 2


Innovation Partnership: Procurement by Co-Design Toolkit

This toolkit provides resources and guidance on how to complete an innovation procurement using co-design methods. The toolkit is organized to support you through the different stages of an innovation procurement project. The tools within the toolkit are a compilation of unique tools developed or adapted specifically for this program, as well as useful resources developed by external entities.

Toolkit introduction and IPPCD overview

A. Choosing the problem

B. Initiating the procurement

C. Forming the partnership

Learn more about the Innovation Partnership: Procurement by Co-Design program

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