Funding competition GCRF demonstrate impact in meeting the sustainable development goals: phase 1

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £9.3 million to demonstrate market-creating innovations in lower income countries and emerging economies. This funding is Official Development Assistance from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) will invest up to £9.3 million in demonstration-stage projects. The projects must have the potential to transform lives in developing countries, through market-creating innovation.

We will support projects that address one or more of the global societal challenges recognised in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the development of innovative processes, products and services. These projects should lead to the deployment of those innovations within developing countries.

This funding is split into 2 phases:

  1. Phase 1 is for feasibility studies.
  2. Phase 2 is for demonstrators.

This competition is to secure funding for phase 1 projects only. Only successful phase 1 applicants will be eligible to apply for the phase 2 demonstrators phase funding.

Your phase 1 feasibility project can include:

  • activities to make sure your idea, and the means to demonstrate it, are technically feasible, and/or
  • human-centred research and design to make sure your idea meets the needs of customers and users, and your demonstration plans reflect realistic use cases

Phase 2 will then support project teams to carry out the demonstration in the developing country. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1.

The competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs for phase 1 can be between approximately £85,000 and £120,000 with a maximum grant award of up to £60,000.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time we confirm you will be awarded funding. It is not possible to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance.

Your project

Projects must start by April 2020, finish by September 2020 and last no more than 6 months.

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

Lead organisations

The administrative lead:

  • must be a UK registered business, of any size
  • will be the recipient of the award and will distribute any funding to international (non-UK) partners
  • will manage and be accountable for the project’s finances in accordance with the terms and conditions of the award
  • must claim funding through this competition

The technical lead:

  • can be from any country
  • can be a business, research organisation, public sector organisation, research and technology organisation or not for profit organisation
  • will lead on the development of the scope, work packages within the project and other work from a technical perspective
  • must claim funding through this competition
If your organisation is a UK business it can be both the administrative and technical lead.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

The technical and administrative leads can work in collaboration with others, including international partners. You do not have to include international partners in this phase 1 competition but you must include them in phase 2. (Change note, International partners not mandatory in Phase 1 but are in Phase 2 added 7 November 2019)

To collaborate with the lead organisation, you must:

International partners will be funded through the administrative lead, on the same grant percentage terms as UK organisations of the same category. The leads and funded partners must all enter their costs in the application.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

Work in a developing country

Phase 1 is to help project teams investigate and improve the feasibility of undertaking a demonstration project in one OECD DAC list recipient country in scope for this competition. It should determine how the innovation could be effectively demonstrated in that country, at phase 2.

To ensure that your innovation has the highest chance of being successfully adopted, you will need to understand the cultures, attitudes and other specific factors in the developing country you are focusing on. In order to deliver the desired economic and societal impacts, you must take into account gender equality and social inclusion issues.

During phase 1, your project must involve some work in the chosen developing country. This can be done by any partner in the project, but you must name them in your application.

If you are invited to phase 2, your project must focus on research and development (R&D), testing and demonstration work within the developing country. You must collaborate with at least one partner with a legal entity in that country.

Multiple applications

Any one UK business can be the administrative and/or technical lead on one application and collaborate as a partner in a further 2 applications.

A research organisation, public sector organisation, RTO, charity or other not for profit organisation can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications


You cannot use a resubmission to apply for this competition. A resubmission is a proposal Innovate UK judges as not materially different from one you have submitted before. It can be updated based on the assessors' feedback.

If you submit a new application this time you will be able to use it in no more than one future competition that allows resubmissions.

Failure to exploit (UK organisations)

If you applied to a previous competition as the lead or sole organisation and were awarded funding by Innovate UK or UK Research and Innovation, but did not make a substantial effort to exploit that award, we will award no more funding to you, in this or any other competition. You will not be able to contest our decision.

We will:

  • assess your efforts in the previous competition against your exploitation plan for that project
  • review the monitoring officers’ reports and any other relevant sources for evidence
  • document our decision, which will be made by 3 team members, and communicate it to you in writing

Previous projects (UK organisations)

Under the terms of Innovate UK funding, you are required to submit an independent accountant’s report (IAR) with your final claim. If you or any organisation in your consortium failed to submit an IAR on a previous project, we will not award funding to you in this or any other competition until we have received the documents.


We have allocated up to £9.3 million for both phases.

In phase 1 £1.8 million is allocated to fund feasibility studies. We plan to fund up to 30 feasibility study projects.

You could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

The research organisations and any charities in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs, whether they are contributing as partners or sub-contractors. If your consortium contains more than one, this maximum amount is shared between them.

  • UK academic partners will be funded through Je-S at 80% of full economic cost (FEC)
  • other UK research-base partners will be funded at 100%
  • non-UK academic partners will be funded at 100%
  • charities and other not-for-profit organisations will be funded at 100% of project costs

If you are sub-contracting:

  • sub-contracting costs must not be more than 50% of the total project costs
  • sub-contractors can be businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities from any country
  • you can work with multiple sub-contractors on a single project
  • sub-contractors can be for both the administrative and technical lead
  • all sub-contractors must be named on the application form, and each must have a unique and clearly defined role within the project

Phase 2 will focus on demonstrators that have reached the industrial research or experimental development stages of R&D. We have allocated up to £7.5 million and expect to fund up to 15 projects.

State aid

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘standard CR&D’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Capital usage

Only capital usage on equipment is eligible for funding through this competition. All materials must be directly related and essential to the goals of the project.

Payment of grant

Overseas partners will receive their grants via a hub and spoke model. This means grant claims and payments to overseas partners are submitted via the UK-based business acting as administrative lead.

Additional assurances

In view of the overseas nature of this funding, Innovate UK is imposing some additional assurance requirements. These will be accompanied by Innovate UK’s standard assurance processes that relate to giving funding to UK registered organisations:

  • successful UK applicants must demonstrate they have proper and transparent arrangements for passing grant funding to overseas participants
  • Innovate UK may carry out initial due diligence and final audit checks on international partners
  • successful UK participants must provide documented evidence that international partners agree to such checks
  • grant funding will be withdrawn if Innovate UK does not receive these additional assurances

Innovate UK has the right to refuse funding to projects where we find something that could potentially damage Official Development Assistance, the Global Challenges Research Fund, Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation.

Innovate UK also has the right to refuse funding to projects where the cost of due diligence and monitoring requirements outweigh the potential benefits of funding. This decision will be made as part of our risk-based considerations.

Suspension, termination and repayment of grant

You must adhere to the full terms in the award terms and conditions that will be available to you once you register to apply for this competition.

Other examples of events that may result in Innovate UK terminating the grant include, without limitation:

  • government commitment for the initiative is withdrawn
  • work performed by the UK and overseas partners diverge to a material extent/and or the change is no longer considered ODA compliant by Innovate UK

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to find transformative commercial solutions to societal challenges recognised by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

It will enable businesses to collaborate with end users and other stakeholders. Together they can demonstrate the potential of new processes, products and services and their associated business models in transforming the lives of people and economies in developing countries.

We will support innovations which are pre-commercial in the partner developing country. These are innovations which, before they can become commercially available, need further research and development to make sure they:

  • are technically feasible, and
  • are affordable, appropriate and attractive from the perspective of users and other stakeholders, in the developing country

The innovation to be demonstrated must focus on addressing the needs of people in developing countries. These are people who are unable to afford or access existing commercially available solutions, or who lack the time or expertise to successfully use those solutions. Cultures, attitudes and other context specific factors may also present challenges and opportunities relevant to the successful adoption of innovation. Technology alone is only ever one part of a solution.

In your application, you will be asked to provide information on:

  • gender equality
  • social inclusion
  • how your innovation and your project may impact people differently
  • how you would mitigate any negative effects

Projects must show how the innovation is responding to a felt need, demand or gap in the market (a pull factor) rather than pushing pre-prepared, unwanted and untenable technology solutions. There must be equitable collaboration between project partners.

The innovation must be at the stage of development for this collaborative demonstration to be appropriate. You must have an outline of an appropriate business model to take that innovation to market in in that country.

The competition also aims to support those ideas that are:

  • likely to lead to the creation of markets
  • boost the related infrastructure and value chains attached to those markets
  • create jobs, all within the partner developing country

Your phase 1 project team should build partnerships and gain confidence in the feasibility, viability and desirability of your innovation, including considering alternative solutions if necessary. Your team must plan how to demonstrate their innovation effectively, before going on to do so in a potential phase 2.

Successful applicants must attend a workshop run by Innovate UK on gender equality and social inclusion to discuss good practice and share experiences. Innovate UK will separately reimburse expenses for attending this workshop. One person from your project team must attend.

Phase 1 output

By the end of phase 1, your project must:

  • produce a validation of need for, and opportunity of demonstrating your innovation in the developing country
  • have identified all demonstration partners and their roles, other main stakeholders and the business case for the innovation in that country
  • outline the anticipated social and economic impact from your demonstration

In particular, the end of phase 1 report must detail:

  1. The activities undertaken during phase 1, and the outputs and outcomes compared to the original objectives.
  2. A business plan that addresses market potential and needs. It should include an understanding of the end user and consumer needs in the partner developing country and the route to commercialisation, identifying any market barriers. We note that this is likely to be further refined as a result of a potential phase 2 project. You must understand that societal challenges are often highly complex, and technology is only one part of the solution. Your business plan must also reflect the need to raise awareness about, and encourage adoption of, the innovation.
  3. An implementation and execution plan for a potential demonstration phase, including a stakeholder engagement plan.
  4. The roles and responsibilities of all proposed partners during the demonstration phase.
  5. A results framework for the demonstration project on how it will positively affect the social and economic welfare of the developing country population, in line with the specific SDGs it is targeting. This includes the likelihood of contributing to poverty reduction in a way which can reduce inequality between different genders within the developing country.

We will supply a report format to successful applicants.

Specific themes

Your project must be relevant to one of the following 10 Sustainable Development Goals within an OECD DAC list recipient country (please see ‘Projects we will not fund’ for country exclusions).

  • SDG 3: good health and well-being
  • SDG 4: quality education
  • SDG 6: clean water and sanitation
  • SDG 8: decent work and economic growth
  • SDG 11: sustainable cities and communities
  • SDG 12: responsible consumption and production
  • SDG 13: climate action
  • SDG 14: life below water
  • SDG 15: life on land
  • SDG 16: peace, justice and strong institutions

Applications must clearly detail which SDG they are focused on. You can have a maximum of 2. You must also state which of the targets under each SDG the project is relevant to in the developing country. Please be realistic in terms of which and how many SDG targets your project is focusing on and the impact it is expected to make. We welcome ambitious yet realistic applications.

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects across the ten SDGs in focus for this competition, across a range of OECD DAC list countries, across a range of technology-based solutions, and depending on the type of feasibility study they set out to do.

We encourage applicants interested in working on SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) in developing countries to review the opportunities provided by the Agri-Tech Catalyst and Energy Catalyst programmes respectively.

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects in phase 1, as defined in the general guidance.

Phase 1 is for businesses to explore the feasibility of demonstrating their innovation in a particular developing country, to gain further knowledge about the market conditions, and to identify a partner or partners to collaborate with for that demonstration (if not already identified).

Phase 1 projects can include human-centred design and/or technical feasibility studies.

Human-centred design studies

Businesses can use human-centred design to make sure that their innovation and associated business model meets the needs of potential customers, users and other stakeholders. It provides a framework for effective engagement with people in unfamiliar markets, and can help businesses understand relevant behavioural, social and cultural factors relating to specific countries. As such, it also supports the planning of more workable, realistic and valuable phase 2 demonstration projects.

Examples of appropriate human-centred design processes include:

If your project includes human-centred design activity, your team should include design professionals with relevant expertise and experience. These can be within the lead businesses, project partners or sub-contractors.

Technical feasibility studies

The purpose of this activity is to help businesses explore the feasibility of undertaking a demonstration project in a particular context from a technical perspective. This might include, for example, analysing the conditions in which the demonstration project will be run, the costs, the use cases and viable business models.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects that:

  • focus on a theme or SDG considered out of scope
  • do not focus on a country on the OECD DAC List of ODA recipient countries
  • focus on a country ineligible for this competiton (Argentina, Antigua and Barbuda, Panama, Palau and the People’s Republic of China)
  • do not meet Official Development Assistance (ODA) eligibility requirements
  • are likely to increase inequality between different parts of society, within communities and between persons of different gender
  • are likely to have negative environmental and social impacts
  • do not validate or develop the technical feasibility of innovations and/or their desirability and usefulness to customers
  • do not have an innovation at a demonstration-ready stage
  • have entirely non-civilian applications

3 September 2019
London briefing event.
4 September 2019
Cardiff briefing event.
5 September 2019
Sheffield briefing event.
9 September 2019
Competition opens
10 September 2019
Belfast briefing event.
11 September 2019
Online applicant briefing. Watch the recording
12 September 2019
Edinburgh briefing event.
13 November 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
13 December 2019 2:57pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the general guidance for applicants before you start.

The UK administrative lead is responsible for:

  • collecting the information for the application
  • submitting the finished application
  • representing the consortium if the application is successful

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section sets the scene for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Administrative lead details

The administrative lead must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative within the partner developing country. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

You must follow this format:

  • short introduction outlining the socio-economic challenge you are addressing, and which developing country it is in
  • brief summary of the intentions of your feasibility study, and the activities and outputs which will take place to address the challenge
  • summary of the envisaged impacts from your project in the partner developing country, linking to the relevant goals and accompanying targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in scope for this competition

Funding will not be provided to successful projects without this.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Scope and ODA compliance

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition including ODA compliance, demonstrating that:

  • it concerns an innovation that is at a demonstration-ready stage.
  • it addresses up to 2 of the 10 SDGs in scope for this competition and is clear of the SDG targets it aims to contribute to
  • it focuses on an eligible country from the OECD DAC List of ODA recipients, noting which countries are out of scope

To be eligible for a GCRF grant, you must clearly explain and give evidence for how your project is in scope for Official Development Assistance and is ODA eligible (also see question 1 below). You must explain how your project will promote the economic development and welfare of people in developing countries as its main objective, in the wider context of contributing to the SDGs.

Eligibility, scope and ODA will be assessed based on your responses to this section and question 1 of the application form (including the mandatory appendix). Only applications that meet the eligibility, scope and ODA requirements of the competition will be sent for assessment. You will be notified if your application is not sent for assessment, with an explanation why. Innovate UK reserves the right to declare applications as out of scope.

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will not score questions 1 to 4 but you will receive feedback from them. They will score and give feedback on questions 5 to 10.

Your answer to each question can be up to 500 words long unless otherwise specified. Do not include any URLs in your answers.

Question 1: ODA compliance, impacts, benefits and partnerships (unscored)

Describe how your project will promote the welfare and economic development of an eligible country on the OECD DAC list, by addressing a development need in that country. Please type the numbers corresponding to the main expected impacts of the innovation of your project in the text box.

  1. Economic impacts, such as new jobs, incomes, income equality, poverty reduction, new enterprises, participation in value chains, financial services or external finance
  2. Environmental impacts, such as positive impacts on water, sanitation, air, soil, food, ecosystems, biodiversity, desertification, waste, energy, energy or material efficiency, or climate sustainability
  3. Impacts on working conditions, such as occupational health, work welfare, working hours, work-related social benefits, or work safety
  4. Impacts on governance, participation and security, such as anti-corruption, transparency of institutions, rule of law, societal participation, violence, crime or non-discrimination
  5. Impacts on access to services and welfare, such as social and health services, diseases and health risks, disasters, education and learning, access to information, infrastructure, transportation or housing
  6. Impacts on capacity development, such as new knowledge, skills, use and transfer of technology, innovation knowhow and environmental awareness
  7. Impacts on gender equality and social inclusion, such as women’s inclusion, strategies that maximise the ‘leaving no-one behind’ agenda
  8. Other expected impacts.

Describe the impact on those inside the consortium (project partners) and outside (people in the developing country, particularly poor and under-served groups) and make a clear distinction between the two. Be clear about what stakeholder groups in the developing country you expect to impact from this project, and avoid making generic statements.

You must provide additional information in the appendix on the impacts of your project to further demonstrate that you are eligible for ODA. The appendix must be a PDF and can be up to 4 pages long and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Your appendix must answer the following questions:

  1. How will you achieve the impacts you identified in question 1 (and no others)? What is your theory of change?
  2. Do you expect your project to have any negative impacts in the short and long term? If so, on whom?
  3. What is the potential scalability of the innovation in the developing country you are focusing on, such as number of users or beneficiaries of the innovation?
  4. What impact will the project have on longer-term co-operation and partnerships between project partners, such as public and private sector organisations, civil society, research and educational institutions?

Question 2: Gender equality and social inclusion (unscored)

How is your project helping to promote gender equality and social inclusion?

Your answer is a mandatory requirement for all GCRF programmes under the International Development (Gender Equality) Act, 2014.

Who is involved? You must:

  • highlight any relevant diversity and social inclusion experience or expertise within the core project team and their businesses
  • provide information on any partner organisations you are already working with and their role and expertise related to gender equality and social inclusion, such as community groups, NGOs or government stakeholders
  • identify where you see the need to build new links with partner organisations and why (we would expect you to have these connections in place for phase 2)

How will you factor this in to your project plan? You must:

  • describe how your project will address gender equality and social inclusion issues, including poorer consumers, disabled people and older people
  • explain how you will measure this
  • say how will this feed into the overall project plan in question 6

What is the potential? Describe your current understanding on:

  • the expected outcomes of your project and benefits of your innovation on gender equality and social inclusion
  • the potential negative effects of your project and innovation and how you plan to mitigate against these

Describe any gaps in your current understanding and how you intend to address these.

Question 3: Country (unscored)

Which eligible developing country will your application be focusing on and why? What relationship do you currently have with that particular country?

Please refer to the OECD DAC List of ODA recipients and type your answer in the text box.

Question 4: UN Sustainable Development Goals (unscored)

Which Sustainable Development Goal is your application targeting?

In your response, please identify:

  • up to 2 of the 10 UN SDGs in scope for this competition, and
  • the specific SDG targets you aim to contribute to under each SDG

Please type your answer in the text box.

  • SDG 3: good health and well-being
  • SDG 4: quality education
  • SDG 6: clean water and sanitation
  • SDG 8: decent work and economic growth
  • SDG 11: sustainable cities and communities
  • SDG 12: responsible consumption and production
  • SDG 13: climate action
  • SDG 14: life below water
  • SDG 15: life on land
  • SDG 16: peace, justice and strong institutions

Question 5: Project motivation and objectives

What problem, challenge or opportunity do you plan to explore through this feasibility project?

What high-level objectives do you expect to achieve through this feasibility project?

Describe or explain:

  • the context and main motivation for the feasibility project, including your understanding of the current situation, and why your innovation is new and relevant within the developing country
  • the objectives, deliverables and expected outcomes of the feasibility project
  • who will benefit directly from the project outcomes
  • whether the project includes mainly human-centred design activity, technical feasibility studies or both, and why this approach has been chosen
  • any work you have already done to explore feasibility of your innovation in the developing country
  • any relevant wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges you are aware of or wish to explore further through this project

Question 6: Project activities and outputs

How will you conduct the feasibility project to achieve the objectives set out in question 5? You must outline a concise, step-by-step project plan, broken down into individual stages of work. For each stage, explain:

  • what will be done
  • who will do it
  • what the outputs will be
  • how those outputs will help towards fulfilling the overall project objectives

Refer to any specific design processes or tools you plan to use if using human-centred design methodology.

You can submit a project plan as a PDF appendix to support your answer. It can be up to 2 A4 pages and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 7: Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

If using human-centred design, how will you access appropriate design capability?

Describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • the relationship between partners in the project team, whether this is an established or newly formed partnership and how this feasibility stage will enable the strengthening of the relationship and a potential subsequent application into phase 2

You can submit one appendix as a PDF with team member biographies to demonstrate relevant experience. It can be up to 2 A4 pages and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this
  • the steps you will take to make sure that new discoveries and ideas will be recognised, supported and have lasting impact within your business

You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9: Added value

What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses and other project partners involved?

Describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Question 10: Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academic institutions will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

Global Challenges Research Fund

Funding has been allocated from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a £1.5 billion UK government fund to support cutting-edge research and innovation which addresses the problems faced by developing countries.

GCRF addresses global challenges through disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and innovation, and will strengthen capability for research and innovation within both the UK and developing countries. GCRF forms part of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment and will be awarded in a manner that fits with ODA guidelines.

This funding is part of UKRI’s GCRF delivery under the commercialisation and innovation strand of activity. It is built on the premise that appropriate and affordable commercial solutions to important development challenges could be applied, but for various reasons they are not yet in place. These reasons might include:

  • businesses’ reluctancy to enter new markets due to financial risks
  • customers’ reluctancy to buy unproven technology, and lack of appropriate connection and collaboration on R&D for new innovations
  • investors’ reluctancy to take on both technology and new market risk

This competition aims to overcome some of those reasons and support new innovations to get to market quicker. As a primary outcome poor and disadvantaged people within developing countries can access and benefit from innovative and affordable products and services developed and deployed from new business partnerships. These include:

  • direct benefits gained by consumers from the availability of a new product or service itself
  • benefits from creation of markets, the related infrastructure and value chains attached to those, and job creation within the partner developing country

As secondary outcomes businesses are able to:

  • test the applicability of processes, products or services in new markets
  • find new R&D partners, and potentially new markets, for their products and services

Equitable partnerships

Partnerships are an important part of the GCRF strategy. UKRI has developed the following statement of expectation for partnerships in consultation with researchers and innovation stakeholders from East Africa.

“Partnerships should be transparent and based on mutual respect. Partnerships should aim to have clearly articulated equitable distribution of resources, responsibilities, efforts and benefits. Partnerships should recognise different inputs, different interests and different desired outcomes and should ensure the ethical sharing and use of data which is responsive to the identified needs of society.”

Travel advice

We advise that you read the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice relating to the country that you are intending to partner with, which includes information on local laws and customs.


UK Research and Innovation condemns all forms of harm and abuse, including bullying and harassment.

We take a zero tolerance approach to harm and abuse to any individual employed through or associated with our programmes in all contexts. This applies in humanitarian or fragile and conflict-affected settings, in other field contexts, or within the international or UK R&D community which we fund.

We expect business and other institutions to promote the highest standards in organisational culture, and have in place the systems and procedures required to prevent and tackle all incidents of harm and abuse.


In addition to our usual monitoring terms, we may need additional reporting on key performance indicators (KPIs) and data capture for impact analysis. Your MO will discuss any extra requirements at your initial meeting and we will put a plan in place to capture this information quarterly. You may also be asked to complete a survey to support reporting. We do not approve claims until reporting is completed to a satisfactory level.

Please read the UK Research and Innovation data privacy notice.

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

You can also review the UKRI GCRF Online Community Platform (you will need to create an account to access this platform).

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Innovate UK will try to actively support successful applicants, as far as possible, to ensure projects meet planned objectives. This may include, for example, raising awareness about projects amongst the UK government Science and Innovation Network in particular countries.

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