Public Health Accelerator

About the CUNY Public Health Innovation Accelerator

The CUNY Public Health Innovation Accelerator helps entrepreneurs, CUNY students, faculty, staff, and the broader NYC community generate and scale ventures to create community well-being, with sustainable environmental, social and economic impact across multiple United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, CUNY Startups and Firefly Innovations from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy are joining up to host a summer Accelerator that seeks to foster novel solutions to address different challenges connected to or exacerbated by the pandemic that include but are not limited to rapid and lower-cost testing technologies, personal protective equipment design, improved surveillance systems, mental and social health or integrated health solutions.

Special Thanks to our Partner


 Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group


We are passionate about cultivating entrepreneurs and connecting innovation opportunities and resources in underserved communities that can most benefit from innovation. Technology, systems innovations, and new business models focused on the social and environmental determinants of health and tailored to community needs are necessary for achieving ambitious public health goals and narrowing health disparities. We believe in a trans-disciplinary approach to public health innovation by bringing entrepreneurs together with mentors, public health experts, systems change experts, tech partners, investors and researchers from a wide range of fields who are dedicated to helping the NYC community transform ideas into reality.

What We Do

We plan to work with 6 teams to validate their ventures, test their prototypes in the marketplace, and launch their startups. Teams work in a mentored and collaborative environment over the course of 10 weeks and then pitch their ideas to the public to gather feedback and prepare for the next stage. This program consists of both learning and doing and can be tailored to the needs of each team. The program format includes 3 hours per week of online workshops and 3 hours per week working with mentors. As the pandemic situation allows, in-person sessions may be organized for hands-on collaborative work and networking.

Who Should Apply

Anyone in New York City can apply! You do NOT have to be a CUNY student. We welcome startups from any of the 5 boroughs. You can be a new applicant or participant of previous programs hosted by CUNY Startups. We encourage startups from any sector to apply. Your startup must have a public health impact. Your startup can be a nonprofit, for-profit or social venture. Startup teams made up of all backgrounds and disciplines are encouraged to apply. Your startup teams do not have to be in the health sector or be made up of health professionals to qualify. We particularly encourage innovators from underserved communities to participate. What you need is a desire and commitment to immerse yourself in the entrepreneurial process. Whether you are a scientist, a lawyer, a marketer, an engineer, an artist, a student or a teacher, you can be a change agent!


June 3 – August 6

Sessions are every Wednesday & Thursday 10AM-1PM

Who We're Looking for & Requirements

Teams of 2-5 co-founders with at least a prototype that are looking to move into the next stages in order to launch.

The best teams have co-founders with complementary talents: public health, science and engineering, tech development, business, finance, marketing, art and design, etc.

You must have a minimum of two people on your team

You must be a New York City "area" based startup

The team must attend Tuesday & Thursday sessions 10AM-1PM (This will be virtual if CUNY is still on "pause" schedule)


What types of applications will the Accelerator accept?

We seek innovative solutions that clearly articulate the impact on a health challenge related to the experience of a pandemic. The use of technology is welcome and encouraged, but technology should be considered as a means to an end and not the end in and of itself. Proposed solutions must indicate how they specifically address two or more Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Solutions can be products or services that are based on for-profit, non-profit or hybrid models.

What stage of development should an applying startup be in?

While we consider applications from all stages of development, most successful applications will be beyond the concept stage. Unsuccessful applications may be considered for future Innovations programs.

How will my application be evaluated?

We will evaluate each application based on alignment with the public health challenge of interest and potential for impact, feasibility, partnerships, and scalability.

What happens after the Accelerator?

Following the Accelerator, Firefly Innovations offers additional programs and services in order to continue developing your venture. Accelerator teams will be included in the CUNY Public Health Innovation Network (PHIN) and will have access to services in order to refine, commercialize and/or scale your company beyond the Accelerator. As part of the Accelerator program, we will work with each team to find the right next steps depending on each team’s needs and stage of development.

What is public health?

Public health is “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society” (Acheson, 1988; WHO). Public health challenges are based on a variety of different topics, such as the social, economic, cultural, and environmental determinants of health. At Firefly Innovations, we connect our public health challenges to the SDGs, which all impact communities’ health. If you are producing a solution that holistically addresses SDGs, you are most likely producing a public health solution.

Does CUNY take any equity in my startup?

No, we do not ask for equity.

Do I get course credit?

No. This is not a for-credit curriculum. This is a hands-on venture-building program.

How much does the Accelerator cost?

Nothing. It’s 100% FREE.

Can people who are not from CUNY apply?

Yes. We encourage any teams from New York City to apply!

What are your plans to offer virtual programming?

Currently, our programming is designed to be compatible with 100% online delivery. However, we see the value of hybrid modalities and will aim to offer in-person collaboration and networking opportunities in the summer should the COVID-19 pandemic be resolved by then.

For any inquiries please email