Submit a Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal

Throughout the year, we welcome Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposals that can help us anticipate the future and consider new and unconventional perspectives and approaches to building a Culture of Health.

Pioneering Ideas and a Culture of Health

The goal of the Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal funding opportunity is to explore; to look into the future and put health first as we design for changes in how we live, learn, work and play; to wade into uncharted territory in order to better understand what new trends, opportunities and breakthrough ideas can enable everyone in America to live the healthiest life possible.

While improving the status quo is vital to the health and well-being of millions of people in America now, the Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal opportunity reaches beyond incremental changes to explore the ideas and trends that will influence the trajectory and future of health. Ultimately, we support work that will help us learn what a Culture of Health can look like—and how we can get there.

Funding Opportunities: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will postpone the planned March 2020 opening of our Pioneering Ideas funding opportunity for several weeks. We will update this page when the funding opportunity becomes active. You can also receive notification by subscribing to our funding alerts at

What is a Pioneering Idea?

Good question! We don’t want to provide a checklist that limits your thinking—or ours. We do want to give you as clear a picture as we can about the kinds of proposals we hope to see, so you can best assess whether submitting an idea through our Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal process is the right next step for you. Our application form allows you to introduce your idea; if it seems to be a fit for our portfolio we will reach out for more information.

We share some examples below of Pioneering Ideas we have funded in the past to give you a sense of where we’ve been. Keep in mind that ultimately, we need you to challenge us, and to tell us where we should be going and what ideas have the most potential to transform the way we think about health. As you review the examples below, you may notice some shared themes or characteristics which:

  • Challenge assumptions or long-held cultural practices.
  • Take an existing idea and give it a new spin—or a novel application.
  • Offer a new take or perspective on a long-running, perplexing problem.
  • Apply cutting-edge ideas from other fields to health.
  • Explore the potential for emerging trends to impact our ability to build a Culture of Health.

Featured Pioneering Ideas


Through the MakerNurse project, RWJF supported the piloting of makerspaces in two hospitals, applying the emerging Maker Movement trend to accelerate and spread innovation at the bedside.

Learn more about their creative tools

Virtual Human Interaction Lab

Virtual reality is being billed as the next big thing in entertainment, but what can it bring to health? We’re exploring its potential to build lasting empathy and accelerate our path to a Culture of Health.

Read the blog post to learn more

Air Louisville

Louisville, Ky., is pioneering the use of patient-generated data to inform policies that help prevent asthma attacks—combining data from GPS-enabled inhalers with data on air quality, traffic and vegetation.

Learn more about this program

I have a Pioneering Idea. How do I share it with you?

  1. Visit the general FAQs about applying for a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to understand basic requirements for receiving a grant and to learn more about the funding process.
  2. Review this set of FAQs for Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal for more information on this specific funding opportunity and what happens once we receive your proposal.
  3. Before you begin your application, you can preview a blank application to understand the kind of information and level of detail required at this stage.
  4. All grant proposals submitted to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—including the Pioneering Ideas Brief Proposal—must be completed online. Begin the application process by submitting your brief proposal through the online application:

In the "project summary" section of your proposal, be sure to note if you're submitting a general idea, or responding to one of our featured call for ideas topics (Reinventing Discovery or Future of Work).

We look forward to learning about your Pioneering Idea.

RWJF's Lori Melichar discusses how we find innovative ways to meet our nation's health challenges.

Share this

Submit your pioneering idea proposal to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Explore More Pioneering Ideas

Pioneering Ideas Podcast

Pioneering Ideas is a podcast for people interested in exploring cutting-edge ideas and emerging trends. We seek to inspire new thinking, spark “aha! moments” and cultivate rich, ongoing conversations. Join us each episode as we talk with visionary thinkers in and outside of health care and discover together new ways to build a Culture of Health.

Learn more

What's Next Health

What's Next Health is an RWJF speaker series that brings new perspectives and fresh thinking to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) staff and external audiences by engaging leading visionaries at the forefront of trends and ideas that could have significant impact on the work of RWJF and its grantees.

Learn more