The HHS Ignite Accelerator is an internal innovation startup program for staff within the Department that want to improve the way their program, office, or agency works.
The Ignite Accelerator is for small teams of 3-5 people. Most teams come with an idea. Most teams come with an idea for how to improve the way their program, office or agency works. However, individuals that have identified a problem, but have not yet identified a solution are also welcome to apply.
The program provides selected teams methodological coaching and technical guidance within a fast-paced, entrepreneurial framework.
What selected teams get with Ignite
Structure and Permission to experiment
Experiential learning of modern management and problem-solving principles
Individualized coaching and mentorship
Access to a community of innovators at HHS
Access to HHS leadership
Examples of some types of projects that could be supported by Ignite include:
Simplifying an existing processes
Modernizing a product or service being delivered
Testing out new tools and technologies
Improving internal policies and procedures
Stages of Ignite
The application process
If you are interested in participating in Ignite, you must first submit an online application that provides:
background on the area being explored
information on the project idea itself
information on the people that might make up the core team. There must be an HHS employee on the team.
You can learn more about the application process here.
Once Accepted into the Program
Selected teams receive further design and entrepreneurship training during an in-person Boot Camp held in Washington, DC. After Boot Camp, Ignite participants have three months of coaching support to further explore their project and test out their idea with real users (who we call customers). Upon completion of the program, participants will walk away with a clear problem statement and a prototyped solution. At the end of the program, Ignite teams pitch their idea directly to HHS and OpDiv Leadership.
Partnering with the University of Maryland
The HHS IDEA Lab has partnered with the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland and DC I-Corps to carry out the Boot Camp of HHS Ignite. the UMD instructors provide hands on training in design thinking, prototype develoment, problem discovery and more during the Boot Camp phase of the program. UMD coaches continue to provide coaching for the 3 months after the Boot Camp as well.
Core Principles of Ignite
Ignite supports the exploration and testing of ideas that promise to modernize government and improve the Department’s ability to carry out its mission. The goal of each Ignite team, during the course of the program, is to validate (or invalidate) the business value of their idea through a series of small but useful tests. The outcome of each Ignite project is usually no more than a low-res prototype or a minimally viable product (MVP) that has gone through some sort of beta-testing with actual end-users, although some projects may go further.
At the end of Ignite, teams pitch to Leadership for continued funding and support. It’s up to the team to secure this funding and support for the next phases of their project. A handful of teams might find themselves eligible for to pitch for support from the HHS Ventures Fund, also run out of the IDEA Lab.
The Magic Behind HHS Ignite Accelerator
Whether launching awareness campaigns, developing internal processes, or implementing technology enhancements, most projects carried out within government are large and complex. Simple problem solving becomes difficult, and project implementation often ends up unnecessarily bigger and more complicated than originally conceived.
New methodologies brought from the private sector, particularly small startup companies, encourage customer-focused explorations of a problem and data-driven iterations to support decision making. These approaches go by various terms that all overlap: agile development, lean startup, co-designing, human-centered design, design thinking, and others. While each has slightly different meanings, they each recognize the importance of engaging the end-user, understanding the root problem, prototyping and testing, building information feedback loops, and never calling a product final.