Rapid response: Real-time insights for pandemic decision-making

Competitive Projects

Up to $1.2M in phased development funding to propel technology forward

The Department of National Defence solicited proposals to address challenges that arose as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges aimed to strengthen the response to COVID-19, as well as future pandemics, through the development of strategies to re-use protective gear, clean equipment and workspaces, gain real-time insight for decision making, and care for front line workers.


WebID Project Title Innovator Amount Stage

Challenge Statement

Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) in collaboration with Canada’s defence, security and public safety communities are looking for innovative epidemiological and healthcare solutions involving data gathering and data analytics technologies to support the early detection and community-based surveillance of outbreaks of contagious diseases. The goal is to provide actionable insights and to permit rapid decision-making with respect to the full emergency preparedness spectrum.

Background and Context

Within a few short months, the novel Coronavirus COVID-19 has evolved from less than 100 cases in a single countryFootnote for Rapid response 1 into a global, public health emergency affecting nearly five million people in 188 countries Footnote for Rapid response 2. As of May 20, 2020, there were 81,194 confirmed cases and 6,106 reported deaths in CanadaFootnote for Rapid response 3.

Government officials need to be able to make rapid and informed decisions at different stages of the emergency management spectrum when managing all aspects of a highly contagious disease of the magnitude of COVID-19. For instance, it is of the utmost importance that officials be able to detect the outbreak as soon as possible, and make rapid decisions for adapting to, eliminating or reducing the risks to Canadians (i.e., prevention and mitigation); be ready to respond to the emergency and manage its consequences through measures prior to and following the outbreak within Canada (i.e., preparedness and response); and be able to quickly restore conditions to an acceptable level (i.e., recovery). Healthcare officials and First Response organizations need a near real-time, accurate picture of the extent and patterns of disease transmission at the community-level, in order to better understand current and evolving healthcare demands, in order to be able to make informed, time-sensitive decisions about how to allocate limited and/or secure additional resources; and be able to relax mitigation efforts.

This challenge represents a call to action to Canadian innovators to encourage partnering across different sectors and among individuals within different fields to work together to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as future outbreaks of contagious diseases. The goal is to support the development of new and innovative ways of collecting, sharing and analyzing real-world data (open source, social media, licensed proprietary, etc.) at the community-level in order to support improved prediction, situational awareness and enable better management of such outbreaks.


DRDC is looking for innovative research, design concepts and technologies solutions that will help Canada to improve its management of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and similar public health emergencies in the future. Solutions are sought that address, but are not limited to, one or more of the following:

Essential Outcomes

  • Improve Canada’s response to the pandemic by use of data gathering and data analytics to, identify patterns and make critical community-based healthcare decisions at different stages of the emergency management spectrum;
  • Develop real-time indicators of community-level disease transmission, and other indicators that would assist officials to detect an emerging threat to public health, and provide actionable intelligence for use by local first responders in local operational contexts;
  • Innovative ways of automatically gathering, extracting, sharing and analyzing real-world data to improve Canada’s response to the pandemic. Data sources must be reliable and be of sufficient quality for analysis. Proposed solutions will be evaluated based on their creativity in using or collecting data to accurately estimate rates of disease transmission, including in difficult to reach locations;

Desired Outcomes

Ability to do community-level geo-spatial mapping of patterns and clusters of symptoms, and of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, in near real-time in order to support decision-making.

Data analytic capabilities and algorithms, tools and methods for data mining, statistical analysis, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data visualization, predictive and inferential analysis for short- and medium - term projections. Supplementary Information Proposals involving individual-level contact tracing will not be considered for this challenge.

Supplementary Information

Innovators are encouraged to form multidisciplinary teams to address this challenge.

Proposals involving individual-level contact tracing will not be considered for this challenge.


Community-Level Indicators. Community-level indicators (CLI’s) are measures that refer to population groups rather than individual community members. They provide a “big picture” perspective by helping to indicate what is happening at the community- rather than individual-level and are derived from observations of different aspects of the community. These indicators help officials to derive a better understanding of how communities are affected by a disease.

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