The 5A Framework: Proof of Concept & Acceleration for Impact

Over the last ten years, there has been a revolution in the way that innovative ideas, technology and research go from the field or lab into the global market.   The world is embracing innovation and entrepreneurship as the means by which economic value is created and lingering problems in society are solved.   Universities, labs and private companies commercialize the research being conducted by their faculty and scientists through proof of concept centers. And startups embraced a new business philosophy called the Lean Startup, which manifested itself in accelerator programs that have sprung up around the world.

Equal Innovation brings the proof of concept and acceleration principles to the development, social impact and philanthropic sectors.  Worldwide, we are seeing nearly 30% of startup projects at university proof of concept centers and startup accelerators focused on making a positive impact on society – either with a direct objective of social impact, or as a for-profit company in sectors like clean tech, wellness and agricultural productivity.  These startups often struggle to gain traction from lab to market because their natural funders and partners - foundations, philanthropy, NGOs and government agencies, often lack the expertise to pilot new technologies and implement them at scale.

Equal Innovation works with NGOs and foundations through an individualized accelerator program with several steps to identify innovation, prove the concept and create pathways towards implementation and scale. The various stages of our 5A framework include:

The 2017-18 Impact Accelerator

Equal Innovation started its Impact Accelerator for Indian CSR, philanthropy and foundations in September 2017.   

Worldwide, accelerators and proof of concept centers are the main framework for launching disruptive innovations that are transforming industry. Equal Innovation announces an accelerator designed to help Indian CSR and philanthropy to achieve the same – launch innovations to disrupt traditional development and exponentially increase impact.  Here are some details about the program:

  • Participants are from corporate CSR departments and large, private philanthropy

  • 3 Collaborative Workshops in-Person (Bangalore & Mumbai)

  • Virtual Webinars and Manageable Assignments for CSR/Philanthropy Executives

  • Up to 5 participants from your organization or external partners (such as NGOs) can participate

  • Concludes with “Demo Day” of project tested and ready to launch

Unlike traditional startup accelerators, the Equal Innovation program places an emphasis on proof of concept and ensuring that the science and/or technology is ready for deployment in the field.  However, part of the accelerator also involves training funders, researchers and implementing agencies in the concepts of startups, from Lean Startup to idea generation, business model canvas, prototyping and developing networks of mentors, advisors and potential partners.   At the end of the accelerator, the funder or NGO will have data from field trials, or proof of the context in which the innovation will have impact.  Most importantly, the project will begin developing a business plan to become a stand-alone program of the foundation or its partner implementing agency.

There are several types of accelerator and proof of concept programs that organizations can benefit from.  There are basic programs, such as challenges, hackathons and prizes.  At a higher level, there are internal accelerators where organizations develop their own ideas, and lastly, those programs that solicit external technologies or startups and assess whether they are relevant to the organization. For more info, click here.

India social impact accelerators

2017-18 Accelerator Participants

India social impact accelerators

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India social impact accelerators

Most recently, Equal Innovation created Startup Kuwait, to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Middle East and transition the region from energy to local small business and entrepreneurship.  The program, which in its first year included over 600 college students, the eight universities in Kuwait and chapters in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, is on path to become the model that is replicated throughout the region


Equal Innovation has worked closely with clients around the world to develop processes for innovation.  Equal Innovation has an expertise in creating programs and ecosystems within large organizations that allows to flourish and gain momentum with the appropriate oversight and buy-in.   Developing innovation ecosystems within organizations starts with a determination of how to integrate new ideas into traditional programs and activities.  The core work is to determine the areas of focus that are best suited for innovation, in that the funder or the operating partners are best equipped, experienced and prepared to integrate new ideas or technologies.  We then work with the organization to develop the capacity of the funder, the staff, the partners and their network to leverage the innovation.   We contextual innovation process methodologies like proof of concept for what is appropriate to the funder or implementing agency. 

Nish Acharya is working with the Stepping Strong Center at Brigham & Women’s Hospital to bring innovation processes to trauma research – an important area of medicine that includes emergency preparedness, trauma, reconstructive surgery, orthopedics, plastic surgery and regenerative medicine.  The Center provides grants for trauma research and to commercialize important breakthroughs.

Nish Acharya of Equal Innovation’s co-chaired the review committee for the National Institute of Health: National Centers for Accelerated Innovation, one of the US governments most ambitious effort to commercialize research funded by the federal government.  The project included an evaluation and review of three national centers: the Boston Biomedical Innovation Consortium, which includes Harvard Medical School, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital; the Cleveland Clinic, and the University of California System, which included biomedical centers at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

India social impact accelerators


Equal Innovation has unique experience as a strategic consulting and advisory firm to assist large organizations to launch entrepreneurial ideas, and for foundations and governments to develop policy that drives economic development through entrepreneurship.  The Equal Innovation methodology involves a combination of Lean Startup with proof of concept and intensive collaboration between regional institutions or organizational departments.  This tends to improve the chances of entrepreneurs, or intrapreneurs, to gain traction for their ideas, raise capital and recruit top talent.

India social impact accelerators

Commercialization & Scale-up

Equal Innovation is building a global network of innovators, proof of concept centers, accelerators and research technology transfer offices to be able to match innovations and funders.  We hope to connect the right innovation to the right situation anywhere in the world with data, sector-specific research and analysis, and a broad network of practitioners.   Today, Equal Innovation is building a network of 100 global universities, accelerators and research labs that are commercializing technology for sustainability, education or the base of the pyramid.