Flywheel Foundation Announces Health Equity Innovation Challenge Launch

Jill Atherton
January 03, 2023

The Flywheel Foundation announced today the launch of a Health Equity Innovation Challenge made possible by Atrium Health serving as the title sponsor.

The Challenge is a business idea competition seeking solutions to problems causing disparities in healthcare outcomes that Atrium Health, the collaborating organizations, sponsors, and the communities they serve deeply care about. The challenge will run for three years and is expected to generate a portfolio of 20-30 companies.

The application website is now open and receiving applications through March 31, 2023, at

The Flywheel Foundation is administering the Challenge as well as the accelerator and incubator programs that successful applicants will enter to prove the commercial viability and social impact of their solutions.

“The pandemic laid bare inequities caused by social drivers that lead to health disparities and barriers to health care access,” said Roy Hawkins Jr., President of Atrium Health’s North Area where the program is based. “We will focus on innovative entrepreneurial solutions to address the leading indicators and drivers of inequities in health care as opposed to the lagging systemic indicators.”

“The Flywheel Foundation has administered accelerators and innovation challenges for the last eight years,” said Jill Atherton, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “We are very excited about this project because it connects contributions from all of our partners at the Cabarrus Center around a very important mission.”

Additional organizations involved in providing research, subject matter expertise, community engagement, and entrepreneurship support include Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, Cabarrus Health Alliance, North Carolina Research Campus, El Puente Hispano, Racial Equity Cabarrus, Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation, The Chamber, Leading Business in Cabarrus, and the Small Business Center of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

Applications are invited for social and technological innovations that can be applied and commercialized with demonstrated potential for the social and economic impact on the following Challenge priorities:

  • Access: Improve access to colorectal screening, A1c control, blood pressure control, and behavioral health, with reduced readmissions.
  • Quality and Outcomes: Eliminate disparities in mortality rates, mental health, and maternal and child health.
  • Acute Social Needs: Support systems, community engagement, structural discrimination.
  • Drivers of Health: Economic stability and upward mobility; food security and access to healthy foods; access to affordable housing and commercial districts; affordable transportation; affordable childcare, education access, and quality.

The targeted populations are vulnerable communities specifically, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and those at 200% of Federal Poverty.

“Understanding these social drivers and indicators from the customer’s perspective within these communities is the key to unlocking innovative solutions”, said Matt Roden, Atrium Health’s Director of Community Engagement.

The Challenge requires engagement with those populations in North Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Rowan, Stanly, and Iredell Counties for proof-of-concept testing.

Local and regional applications will be given weighted scoring preference, but the challenge will be marketed state-wide and nationally.

Applications will then be scored by a screening committee with representatives from the collaborating institutions and finalists will pitch to be one of 5-10 founder teams accepted into the accelerator starting on June 5, 2023, at the Cabarrus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Concord, NC.

Following the 12-week accelerator, companies will enjoy an 18-month residency at the Cabarrus Center with the support of Venture Mentoring Service (VMS), a premier program licensed by MIT. Additional benefits include:

  • Access to research, subject matter expertise, customer, and investor introductions by the sponsor and collaborating organizations.
  • A $5,000 Spark Grant in the form of non-dilutive funding.
  • The opportunity to negotiate with the title sponsor for investment or another form of strategic partnership.
  • Introduction to additional investors for follow-on funding through Flywheel’s New Ventures program.

Media Contact:
Jill Atherton
Flywheel Foundation Executive Director

About Flywheel and The Flywheel Foundation:
Flywheel designs and operates coworking innovation centers in collaboration with local institutions. In addition to its Winston-Salem location at 500 West Fifth, Flywheel is expanding to additional locations, most recently in Concord, NC with the Cabarrus Center, and Greenville SC in the Crescent Startup Community District. The Flywheel Foundation is an affiliated non-profit charitable organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to entrepreneurship through ecosystem development, education, research, and investment.

For more information, please visit

About the Cabarrus Center:
Located in the heart of downtown Concord, the Cabarrus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship offers professional workspace, meeting rooms, event space, educational workshops, networking events, business resources, mentorship services, and a host of amenities to support entrepreneurs who are launching or growing their businesses.

For more information please visit

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