CSA - Healthcare Challenge Prize


Canadian Space Agency (CSA)


Impact Canada


The Health Beyond team at Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is working to catalyze the transformation of remote healthcare in service of medically-isolated communities here in Canada, with an eye towards future missions to deep space. To this end, CSA is looking to engage, inspire and empower non-governmental actors in the development of solutions. One of the tools being developed for this is a Challenge Prize, which will reward innovators who can develop effective solutions for remote healthcare.

Keeping astronauts healthy in space is a challenging problem, and as we move farther away from earth, it is going to get a lot more complicated. The current healthcare system for astronauts is earth-reliant, with physicians on hand for real-time consults, resupply trips arriving regularly, and emergency evacuation an ever-present backup. On a trip to Mars however, these options all but disappear: there are limited options for resupply, there is no possibility of emergency returns, and communication with experts is limited by a delay of up to 40 minutes.

Though we may have ten years to solve this problem for astronauts, medically-isolated populations such as Canadians living in remote communities need these solutions now. Remote communities, medically-isolated groups, and those whom the pandemic has exposed as requiring care from a distance are all in need of support. These populations suffer from many of the same barriers seen in space, including communication delays and a lack of access to diagnostic tools or specialists. This contributes to inequities in the provision of care in Canada and poor outcomes for the populations affected. Often, thousands of Canadians need to leave their communities for extended periods to access care – sometimes very basic care at that.

If CSA can help to surface ideas and solutions that allow practitioners in remote settings to detect and diagnose medical conditions within their communities, CSA can impact the lives of Canadians today, while setting the stage for deep space missions in the future. Both communities lack access to the tools that allow them to detect and diagnose certain conditions within their communities, and would benefit from technological solutions designed specifically for their context.

The CSA has identified an opportunity to leverage Canadian expertise in space, technology and healthcare to allow astronauts and medically-isolated Canadians alike to be more self-reliant for their healthcare needs.

Challenge Prizes take time to develop, and CSA wants to ensure that the final product is one that will indeed inspire and enable real innovation in this space. To do this, CSA is looking for feedback and input from innovators, organizations and academics who are working on healthcare technologies. If you or your network would like to support the development of this Challenge, please visit the Deep Space Health Challenge for more details and to provide your feedback.


The Challenge Prize offers an outcomes-based funding award to whomever can first or most effectively meet a defined challenge or solve a specific problem according to a set of verifiable and pre-determined criteria.

Special Notes

Challenges are an open innovation approach. They are designed to crowd-in innovative solutions from a wide variety of actors and sources to expand the Government’s problem-solving abilities. Challenges differ from other traditional government funding programs as they are designed as an "outcomes-based" approach where innovators are awarded based on the results achieved during the Challenge.  Challenges are meant to attract new talent and new ideas from a wide variety of actors, and accelerate progress towards solving problems and achieving stronger social, environmental, and economic outcomes for citizens.  They provide incentives (both financial and non-financial) to encourage a broad range of innovators to tackle problems where solutions are not apparent, or current responses are not achieving the desired results. Innovators are rewarded once they can measurably achieve results and improve on given outcomes.

Challenges aim to solve big problems, accelerate progress towards ambitious goals, and have a history of producing major breakthroughs in human knowledge and practice. They do this by shining a powerful light on an issue or opportunity, attracting new talent and new ideas, and providing an incentive for innovators to prioritize the challenge goal. In terms of public policy benefits, challenges can:

  • Provide a targeted mechanism to prioritize important public policy issues and enhance public awareness
  • Open up problem-solving by creating opportunities for government to attract and collaborate with nontraditional stakeholders and innovators in the private, academic, and not-for-profit sectors to advance solutions to complex problems
  • Unlock strategic investments in areas where no natural incentive for innovation yet exists or where the risk of private investment prohibits a solution from being developed
  • Develop a pipeline of new innovations (e.g. programs, services, technologies, products) that can help address complex policy challenges and/or fill important market gaps with tangible impact
  • Introduce an outcomes-based orientation to government programming by linking payments to progress and achievement, as opposed to paying only for expenditures and activities.

Please note that research activities carried out in the context of COVID-19 need to adhere to the University of Guelph COVID-19 research principles, policies, guidelines and processes as they may be updated from time to time and communicated on the Office of Research web-page.

For More Information

Any questions or additional input on the Deep Space Healthcare Challenge can be directed to CSA at: asc.defisante-healthchallenge.csa@canada.ca.


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