Funding competition GCRF demonstrate impact in developing countries: round 2, 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 competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Some of the dates of this competition were changed on 21 April 2020:

  • close date
  • notification date
  • project start date
  • project end date

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) will invest up to £9.3 million in prototype stage projects. The projects must have the potential to transform lives in developing countries, through appropriately designed innovation that responds to real market demand.

We will support projects that address one of the 10 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through the development of innovative processes, products and services. These projects must lead to the deployment of those innovations within one OECD DAC list recipient country in scope for this competition.

This funding is split into 2 phases:

  1. Discovery: enabling businesses to gain insights into local market feasibility for the innovation prior to prototyping.
  2. Prototype phase: to test, validate and improve a prototype of the innovation in a developing country market.

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

Your phase 1 discovery project:

  • must include human-centred research and design to make sure your idea meets the needs of customers and users, and your prototype plans reflect realistic use cases
  • can include activities to ensure that your prototype will be technically feasible in the local context of a developing country
  • must determine how the innovation could be effectively prototyped in that country during phase 2
This competition brief was edited on 1 May 2020. An extra sentence was removed from the guidance in How to Apply. The sentence was not needed and does not impact the application process.

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

Funding type


Project size

Your project’s maximum grant can be no more than £60,000 for phase 1 and your total eligible costs must be between £85,000 and £120,000. If you request more than the maximum grant award, your application will be ineligible.

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

Your project’s maximum grant can be no more than £60,000 for phase 1 and your total eligible costs must be between £85,000 and £120,000. If you request more than the maximum grant award, your application will be ineligible.

Projects must start by 1 November 2020, end by 1 May 2021 and last no more than 6 months.

(Text edit 5 May 2020: we have changed the project start and end dates.)

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.

You must comply with Official Development Assistance requirements throughout the lifetime of the project.

Lead organisations

The technical project work can be led by an organisation from any country. The administrative work must be led by a business from the UK.

The administrative lead:

  • must be a UK registered business, of any size
  • will be the recipient of the award
  • will distribute any funding to the 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 of any size, 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 registered 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.

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 market feasibility of launching an innovative prototype in one OECD DAC list recipient country within the scope for this competition. It should determine how the innovation could be effectively prototyped in that country during phase 2.

To ensure that your innovation has the highest chance of being successfully adopted, you will need to understand diverse cultural expectations, attitudes and local context in the developing country. 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 work in the chosen developing country. This can be done by any partner in the project, but you must name the partner or partners in your application.

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

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 can use a resubmission to apply for this competition. A resubmission is a proposal Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, judges as not materially different from one you have submitted before. It should 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, up to £1.8 million is allocated to fund feasibility studies.

Your project’s maximum grant can be no more than £60,000 for phase 1 and your total eligible costs must be between £85,000 and £120,000. If you request more than the maximum grant award, your application will be ineligible.

If your organisation is primarily engaged in commercial or economic activity (known as selective advantage) as part of the project you must ensure your request for funding does not exceed the limits defined below.

This includes organisations that typically act non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For feasibility studies, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

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

(Text edit 8 June 2020: we have added the percentages for feasibility studies and removed the incorrect research categories that had been included by mistake.)

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

UK academic partners undertaking non-economic activity will be funded through Je-S at 80% of full economic cost (FEC).

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 work 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 for phase 2.

State aid

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research and development projects’, 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, not purchase of 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 through a hub and spoke model. This means grant claims and payments to overseas partners are submitted through 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 or Innovate UK.

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.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to find transformative commercial solutions in developing countries that address 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.

The innovation must be ready to prototype in market but not yet launched in the target developing country. These are innovations which, before they can become commercially available, need further research and development to make sure they:

  • respond to real market demand, not just a perceived need
  • are affordable, appropriate and attractive from the perspective of users, customers and other stakeholders, in the developing country
  • are technically feasible in the developing country

The innovation must focus on addressing challenges facing disadvantaged communities in developing countries. These are people who are unable to afford or access existing commercially available 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 and it is vital to put people at the heart of innovation to ensure successful adoption and commercialisation.

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 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 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. This includes considering alternative solutions if necessary. Your team must plan how to prototype their innovation effectively in order to apply for Phase 2 funding which will involve a competitive process.

Successful Phase 1 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 standard or economy class travel expenses or mileage for attending this workshop. We will also pay for hotel accommodation and meals taken in association with attending. One person from your UK project team must attend.

Phase 1 output

By the end of phase 1, your project must:

  • produce a validation of demand for your innovative product, process or service in the developing country
  • identify all phase 2 project partners and their roles
  • identify other main stakeholders
  • outline the business case for the innovation in that country
  • outline the anticipated social and economic impact from your innovation

You must produce a report at the end of phase 1. 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 demand. It should include an understanding of the end user insights and consumer needs in the 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 prototype 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 prototype project on how it will positively affect the social and economic welfare of the developing country population, in line with the specific SDG 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

Your application 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 10 SDGs in focus for this competition. This portfolio will include a range of technology-based solutions based on the type of feasibility study they set out to do. A number of OECD DAC list countries will be included.

We encourage applicants interested in working on SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) in developing countries to consider applying for the Agri-Tech Catalyst and Energy Catalyst programmes respectively. The next competitions for these are expected to launch later this year on the Innovation Funding Service.

Research categories

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

Phase 1 is for businesses to explore the market feasibility of prototyping their innovation in a particular developing country. Phase 1 provides the opportunity to gain further knowledge about the users, customers, stakeholders and market conditions. This phase is also an opportunity to identify a partner or partners to collaborate with for the phase 2 prototype (if not already identified).

Phase 1 projects must include human-centred design. In addition it can include activities to assess technical feasibility in the local context.

Human-centred design (mandatory)

Your project must use human-centred design in the phase 1 activities to make sure that your 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 you 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 prototype projects.

Examples of appropriate human-centred design processes include:

Your project team should include design professionals with relevant expertise and experience. These can be within the lead businesses, project partners or sub-contractors. You can contact the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) for assistance in connecting to networks of design professionals. See the KTN Design web page.

Technical feasibility studies (optional)

In addition to the human-centred design activities, you may decide to explore the feasibility of undertaking a prototype project in a particular context from a technical perspective. This might include, for example, analysing the conditions in which the prototype project will be run, the costs, the use cases and viable business models.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • focus on a theme or SDG that is not listed in the ‘Specific themes’ section
  • involve innovations in energy and agriculture as these are supported by other Innovate UK funding programmes
  • do not focus on a country on the OECD DAC List of ODA recipient countries
  • focus on a country ineligible for this competition (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 include human-centred design activities as part of phase 1
  • do not have human centred design expertise or professionals as part of their project teams
  • do not plan to validate the desirability of the innovation to customers in their local context.
  • have not identified potential commercial demand or markets in the target developing country
  • do not have an innovation at a prototype-ready stage
  • have entirely non-civilian applications
  • have an unrealistic set of activities that will not fit within a 6 month timeframe
  • request more than the maximum grant amount of £60,000 as part of the application
  • do not have the capacity to complete the project due to other commitments

2 March 2020
Competition opens
10 March 2020
Online applicant briefing: register to attend
10 March 2020
London briefing event: register to attend
12 March 2020
Edinburgh briefing event: register to attend
10 June 2020 12:00pm
Competition closes
24 July 2020 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, including scope and compliance.
  3. Finances.

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.

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

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.

We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

2. Application questions

Scope and ODA compliance questions

Your answers to these questions will be used by Innovate UK to decide whether your project fits the scope of the competition. 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.

Question 1. Stage

Explain why you believe your innovation is at the right stage for this funding. Briefly explain what progress you hope to make during phase 1 and what difference this funding will make.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Question 2. Focus country

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

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

Question 3. Sustainable development goal

Which sustainable development goal listed in the ‘Specific themes’ section of the competition brief is your innovation targeting? Please identify a maximum of 2 SDGs out of the 10 SDGs in scope for this competition.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Question 4. SDG targets

Which of the targets under the sustainable development goal will your innovation address? You can find the targets listed under each SDG on the Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platformand on the global indicator framework.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

Question 5. ODA compliance, impacts, benefits and partnerships

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.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long and might include, for example:

  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, material or energy 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 of your innovation particularly for poor, disadvantaged and under-served groups. Be specific about what stakeholder groups in the developing country you expect to benefit 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 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Your appendix must answer the following questions:

  1. 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?

You can read guidance on how to create a theory of change on the Development Impact and You by Nesta website and the NPC website.

Question 6. Gender equality and social inclusion

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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long. 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 into 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
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.

Application questions

Question 7. Value proposition

In 1 or 2 sentences, describe what your innovation aims to do, the customers or users it will target and the benefit it will bring. For example, ‘Our innovation does ... (what) for ... (whom) so that ... (benefits or impact) happens’.

Your answer can be up to 100 words long.

Question 8. Market demand

Explain why you think there is potential market demand for your innovation in the proposed partner country. Give as much detail as possible on who you think will buy your innovative product or service and why.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 9. Innovation

Why is your product or service different or novel in the proposed market?

Identify your direct or indirect competitors.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 10. Phase 1 activities

During this phase 1 discovery study:

  • what will you use human centered design methods to discover?
  • what hypotheses or questions do you want to test in the market?
  • who will you conduct research with (which groups of users, customers, stakeholders and so on)?
  • what methods will you use to gain insights into the market feasibility of your innovation?
  • what additional technical feasibility testing will you need to do to adapt to the local context?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Attach a step by step project plan as an appendix broken into individual stages of work for this phase 1 discovery. It must be a PDF up to 2 A4 pages and no larger than 10MB. The font must be legible at 100% zoom. It must outline the following:

  • objectives
  • main activities
  • who is responsible
  • outputs or deliverables
  • timeline

Question 11. Team and resources

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

Your answer can be up to 500 words long.

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 12. Strategy

How does this project fit within the rest of your work? Is it your sole focus or does it compliment other research, products or services you are developing?

How could the successful commercialisation of this innovation affect your company’s growth?

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 13: Risks

What are the main risks or challenges you will face delivering this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial, environmental, geographical and contextual risks
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise or 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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 14: 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:

  • why you need public funding to do this
  • 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

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

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.

Check your consortium’s total grant at the bottom of the ‘Funding sought’ column in the finance summary. In the ‘Your funding’ section of your application you can adjust your grant percentage by either reducing your costs or adjusting your grant percentage claimed.

You must make sure your total grant is not more than £60,000. The organisations in your consortium must work together to complete the total eligible costs without exceeding this total grant amount. See the ‘Funding’ section of this competition brief to understand the maximum level of funding each type of organisation can claim.

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