The Ideathon

A pitch competition for bold innovations in health care. Application deadline now April 19th!

How can you radically reinvent health care?

Liftoff PGH is hosting a health innovation Ideathon for pre-professional, university, and recently graduated students, with a live pitch competition at the Liftoff PGH 2020 summit on September 15th. This is not about incremental change. We are looking for bold solutions that chart a new future for health. Prizes total $100,000. Applications due April 19th, 2020.

The Selection Timeline

Six finalists will pitch live on September 15th at the Liftoff PGH 2020 summit. Finalists will be selected through two rounds of judging.   After reviewing all digital applications, judges will select the initial group of semi-finalists. All semi-finalists will then attend two training sessions to help craft their presentation. Participants can also schedule training calls with Liftoff PGH coaches during this period.

Semi-finalist contestants will then compete in a 5-minute closed door pitching session, from which six finalists will be selected. The final contestants will be paired with a coach to refine their solution over two months. Finalists then compete in a live pitch session at Liftoff PGH 2020. All winners will be matched with an industry specific mentor to guide development post Ideathon.    



How will you transform health care?

Submit your idea

Have any questions?

Liftoff’s Ideathon does not end at the final pitch. We want to support individuals and teams by pairing them with mentors during and after the competition. We will be following up with winners through interviews, press releases, and solution updates along the way. This competition is truly about making your idea “lift off” and seeing you succeed.

The Ideathon accepts applications from two year programs, undergraduate, graduate, post docs, and recent graduates. We encourage submissions that reflect the experience that you've gained. 

The application will take 1-2 hours to complete. For the video, don’t spend more than an hour on it. The purpose of the video is to get to know you and to get a general idea of the problem you are solving and the solution.

Check out the LiftoffPGH website for links to articles about “Beginning of Life” and “End of Life” issues. For beginning of life, we recommend starting with the World Health Organization. The National Institute on Aging has great resources to learn about end of life care. You can also begin asking professors, providers, family members, or just about anyone what their experience related to “End of Life” or “Beginning of Life” care has been like.

Yes. You can apply by yourself. 

Yes! We are encouraging solutions from all areas of study.


First, congratulations! We expect a number of students may graduate before the final event. We ask that you are honest about your intentions to work on the solution after graduation in the application. It is 100% okay to say you are taking a job and would work on this on the side.

We require that at least one student on the application is in Pittsburgh. If you are to win the competition, we will help partner you with mentors in the Pittsburgh area. If you are moving away from Pittsburgh after graduation it will not preclude you from winning.

Yes. Submitting a second application will not hinder your chances of making it to the semi-final round. If two of your ideas make it to the semi-final stage, only one of the ideas/solutions can be selected to the final round.

Yes. Having a person with business experience on your team is great, but not required. Solutions that come from people close to the problem often can be the most impactful. We can help get you the business experience you need.

Yes. We will check to make sure there is at least one member of the team at a school in the Pittsburgh region.

Yes. We do not expect every idea to be fully fleshed out. Part of the process as an innovator is building a team around you. We can help with that.

No. The first round is on you. We will provide assistance with teams that make it to the semi-final and finalist rounds.

You will receive a check with the prize amount and be assigned a coach based on the industry best suited to your solution. In the following months, there will be regular check-ins in addition to several media interviews.

Email with your question and we will do our best to get back to you within 48 hours and/or post your question to the FAQ page. We will also be scheduling a webinar for the coming weeks so stay tuned. 

We encourage all applicants to attend the summit on September 15th and 16th. If you are selected as a semi-finalist, you will receive free admission. Otherwise student tickets are $40 and scholarships are available by emailing

About the McElhattan Foundation

The McElhattan Foundation is a Pittsburgh-based grantmaking foundation. Its mission is preserving and enhancing human life, and it works toward that through strategic grantmaking in four program areas: Workplace Safety; Education; End-of-Life Planning and Care; and Community Development in the family’s hometowns of Knox and Franklin, PA. More information is available at