Grand Challenges Canada

Award created on the occasion of GCC’s 10th anniversary: More than a billion dollars leveraged to support over 1,300 innovations in 106 countries, resulting in 38,000 lives saved and 7.54 million lives improved to date with the potential to save 1.78 million lives and improve 64 million lives by 2030

Toronto, October 20, 2020Grand Challenges Canada—a Canadian nonprofit organization, primarily funded by the Government of Canada, which invests in novel, local innovations that address critical global health, humanitarian and Indigenous community challenges in Canada and low-resource countries—is pleased to announce that Hewatele is the inaugural recipient of its Rotman Innovation of the Year Award. Hewatele is a Kenyan-owned and -operated social enterprise with a mission to address the lack of access to medical grade oxygen for rural and regional healthcare facilities by producing, delivering and servicing an eco-friendly, low-cost, safe and reliable oxygen solution.

The Rotman Innovation of the Year Award, which comes with a $10,000 CAD cash prize, was created on the occasion of our 10th anniversary and to honour the late Joseph Rotman, the founding Chair of Grand Challenges Canada. Mr. Rotman saw the potential of GCC to catalyze innovations that can sustain and grow their impact over time. His vision is well embodied in the work of Hewatele and the hundreds of other innovations that have been supported by our organization over the past 10 years.

The Award recognizes the innovation supported by Grand Challenges Canada (including funding from the Every Woman Every Child Innovation Marketplace) that has made the largest sustainable increase in lives saved or lives improved over the past year. Innovations that have achieved operational break-even and/or secured a sustained source of public funding are preferred.

“Access to medical oxygen is a critical part of a functioning health system. And there still remains significant oxygen deserts that are devoid of this essential medicine,” said Karlee Silver, Grand Challenges Canada’s Co-CEO. “Thanks to partnerships with County governments, Hewatele currently operates three plants in Kenya supply quality medical oxygen to public and private health facilities that collectively serve millions of people. These oxygen plants have all achieved operational breakeven; this model is set for future expansion.”

Jocelyn Mackie, Grand Challenges Canada’s Co-CEO, added: “Together with our partners and the innovators we support, such as Hewatele, we have come a long way in just a decade. We have demonstrated the importance of our unique niche in the global innovation for impact ecosystem—we are willing to take on innovation risk that other investors are not willing or able to manage.”

To read the Rotman Family statement on the creation of the Rotman Innovation of the Year Award and the selection of Hewatele, click here.

To watch Hewatele’s reaction on winning the Rotman Innovation of the Year Award, click here.


Hewatele: saving lives, one breath at a time

Founded by public health specialist and entrepreneur Dr. Bernard Olayo, Hewatele (“Abundant Air” in Swahili) is transforming health system development and delivery in sub-Saharan Africa. Leading its operations is UK-trained infectious disease specialist and CEO Dr. Steve Adudans.

Hewatele is disrupting current oxygen manufacturing monopolies by operating oxygen plants close to clusters of health facilities in order to simplify distribution and reduce costs. Their “milk man” delivery system allows them to distribute medical oxygen at a much lower point price (at least 30% cheaper than market price) than current oxygen manufacturers who are normally located in industrial areas of large cities.

Since first receiving support from GCC in 2017, Hewatele has grown to provide medical oxygen to 140+ health facilities that serve over 10 million people. As a result, they have saved over 18,000 lives and improved another 18,000 more. Hewatele is also supplying oxygen to two of Kenya’s COVID-19 hospitals in response to the urgent need for oxygen during the pandemic. This component of their work was supported by a separate grant from Grand Challenges Canada, as part of GCC’s and the Government of Canada’s broader efforts to support the response to COVID-19 in low- and middle-income countries.


Happy 10th birthday to Grand Challenges Canada

In 2008, the Canadian government announced the creation of the Development Innovation Fund in the Federal Budget, which led to the creation of Grand Challenges Canada in 2010. Visit for our digital content campaign to celebrate the past 10 years, including a series of social videos that showcase the work that innovators are doing, with Grand Challenges Canada’s support, in areas such as maternal, newborn and child health, gender equality, and the COVID-19 pandemic response.


About Grand Challenges Canada

Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting Bold Ideas with Big Impact®. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, Grand Challenges Canada funds innovators in low- and middle-income countries and Canada. The bold ideas Grand Challenges Canada supports integrate science and technology, social and business innovation—known as Integrated Innovation®.

One of the largest impact-first investors in Canada, Grand Challenges Canada has supported a pipeline of over 1,300 innovations in 106 countries. Grand Challenges Canada estimates that these innovations have the potential to save up to 1.78 million lives and improve up to 64 million lives by 2030.




For more information, please contact:

Douglas Chow, Senior Manager, Communications
Grand Challenges Canada