Facilitating innovation to solve health care problems

Dr. Darryl Knight speaks at Skunkworks: Hacking Aging

What is Skunkworks?

Skunkworks is a unique innovation event series hosted by Providence Research (PHIR+E) in partnership with the St. Paul's Foundation. Providence Health Innovation, Research + Engagement (PHIR+E) is part of Providence Research’s Innovation arm.  PHIR+E’s Skunkworks' program objective is to develop a culture of innovation at Providence Health Care, by applying critical thinking to problem solve complex local health problems, which resonate globally. By bridging the gap between diverse individuals and populations, with clinical research scientists and medical professionals, our goal is to help solve the challenging health issues of our times.

The term "skunkworks" originated in the 1940s as an alias for an American engineering lab that worked on top-secret and innovative programs at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Today, the word “skunkworks” describes a project developed by a loosely structured group of people who identify issues and pilot creative solutions.

Find out more about our previous Skunkworks events below. 

Skunkworks: Hacking Chronic Disease

Uniting through innovation to solve the most pressing chronic disease challenges

Save the Date: October 24-25

November 14 and 15, 2024

What does skunkworks mean?

The term originated in the 1940s. Skunk Works was an alias for an American engineering lab that worked on top-secret and innovative programs at Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Today, the word “skunkworks” describes a project developed by a loosely structured group of people who identify issues and pilot creative solutions.

About this event:

This isn’t your typical conference or seminar. Building off the success of Hacking Pain, Hacking Wounds and Hacking Aging, we hope our fourth Skunkworks event, Hacking Chronic Disease, will be a catalyst for innovation. There are many challenges around chronic disease waiting to be solved, but often researchers, health care professionals, caregivers, and patients do not have a chance to collaborate and share expertise to ideate together.

Skunkworks brings multidisciplinary teams together and empowers them with mentorship and rapid problem solving tools to address challenges related to chronic disease management and prevention.

How does the program work?

Identify a problem, form a team, design a solution, create a prototype, transform care

User perspectives and problems experienced by patients, staff, and caregivers will be discussed on Thursday morning. In the afternoon, participants can vote with their feet and join a team that is tackling a problem they are passionate about. 

Teams will spend Thursday designing, building, testing, validating and fine-tuning their prototypes or solutions. Mentors will be available to refine ideas and provide advice. Fuel up on complimentary breakfast and lunch. On Friday morning, teams will present their prototypes to the judges for a chance to win awards.

The final pitch event will be attended by thought leaders and other innovators and shared widely on social media and other platforms. This is the day not to miss!

What's in it for you?

By participating in this fun and competitive event, you are an innovator! Our innovators will have access to the following opportunities and experiences:

  • Network and collaborate with industry professionals as well as like-minded, multidisciplinary innovators.
  • Develop skills in ideation, prototyping, and pitching that will help you come up with impactful solutions to real problems.
  • Learn from influential mentors and judges from business (innovation and entrepreneurship), product development, applied research, and education (e.g. engineers, technologists, industrial designers, manufacturing specialists, and design thinkers) as well as patient partners.
  •  Work with a health professional on a challenge that interests you.
  • Apply your knowledge to a meaningful health care challenge.
  •  Build your leadership and teamwork experience.
  • Receive support, mentorship, and expertise to bring your ideas to life.
  •  Be part of a solution (e.g. minimum viable products: an early version of a solution that could range from a product to a service) that can be fast-tracked for further development and implementation in a healthcare setting;
  • Enjoy complimentary breakfast and lunch (day 1 and 2).


Please register here.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The real world challenges experienced by patients, care givers and staff around chronic disease are complex! How can we solve it in 1.5 days?
  • Is the event in person or virtual?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What problems will be discussed?
  • What is the eligibility criteria to submit a problem or challenge?
  • Who can participate as an innovator?
  • What is the level of commitment required
  • Who is facilitating this event?
  • How can I prepare for the event?
  • How can I access materials for prototypes?
  • How will the winning teams be selected?
  • What are the prizes?
  • What does a team look like?
  • How are teams formed?
  • Who can I talk to for more information?

Thank you to our Skunkworks: Hacking Chronic Disease Sponsors!

Lunch Sponsor

Thrive Health

Thrive Health logo

There are still sponsorship opportunities available for this event. If you are interested in learning more please contact: 

Loretta Lawrence, Director of Annual and Corporate Giving, St. Paul's Foundation

PHC Innovarium PHIR+E Enabling innovation through Providence Research

Thank you to our Skunkworks 2023 sponsors!

Event Sponsor

CABHI logo

The Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) is a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. 

CABHI is a unique collaboration of healthcare, science, industry, not-for-profit, and government partners whose aim is to help improve quality of life for the world’s aging population, allowing older adults of all backgrounds and abilities to age safely in the setting of their choice while maintaining their cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being. Through its funding programs, CABHI helps global innovators gain access to key user groups in order to test, develop, validate, and accelerate the adoption of their solutions. Learn more about CABHI’s work at

CABHI - Health Impact To Date

Change Maker Sponsor

Change Maker Sponsors

Lunch & Breakfast Sponsors

Lunch & Breakfast sponsors

Community Supporters 

Community Supporters

In Kind Acknowledgement  

In Kind Acknowledgement

Prize Sponsor

Prize Sponsor

Skunkworks: Hacking Aging


Aging is inevitable but how do we live well while we age? There are complex challenges surrounding aging that require creativity, collaboration and innovation.

The third annual Skunkworks event, Hacking Aging, united researchers, health care professionals, caregivers, patients, students and external partners to collaborate on solutions to address these challenges and improve the lives of older people.

Read the full recap of the event here.

Watch the video from Skunkworks: Hacking Aging

Skunkworks: Hacking Aging

Skunkworks: Hacking Wounds


Participants at Skunkworks: Hacking Wounds

Skunkworks: Hacking Wounds, the second annual Skunkworks event, occurred on September 22-23, 2022. It was designed to tackle the challenges faced by patients and communities when dealing with wounds, both in Canada and around the globe, and brought together a diverse group of people to find solutions to this significant health issue. 

Skunkworks Event Featured in Hospital News

Watch the video from Skunkworks: Hacking Wounds

Skunkworks: Hacking Wounds

“Somebody gets hurt, we’re there, to lift up the hearts and the minds, so they heal.” Musqueam Knowledge Keeper Sulksun (Shane Pointe) opened the event, which took place on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the Coast Salish People, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. “The most beautiful word, for me, in Coast-Salish language is nuts amaht. Nuts amaht simply means ‘we are one.’”

A participant working at Skunkworks: Hacking Wounds

“I believe that the best way to deal with challenges is to get the best, brightest and most diverse minds that we can get in rooms like this, and let them loose to ideate and come up with solutions,” said Dr. Darryl Knight, president of Providence Research, in an address he gave at the welcome on the first day. 

Read a full recap of the event here.

Skunkworks: Hacking Pain


A team presenting at Skunkworks: Hacking Pain

Skunkworks: Hacking Pain was our inaugural Skunkworks event.

Read the event recap here and watch the video below.

Skunkworks: Hacking Pain

Interested in helping out? You can partner with us, become a sponsor, or sign up to be a mentor!  Email