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GCRF demonstrate impact in meeting the sustainable development goals: Phase 1


Organisations can apply for a share of up to £9.3million 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).

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

Innovate UK 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 two 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.

Open Date:


Close Date:


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.

Innovate UK 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.

Innovate UK 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 two. 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.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects across the 10 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.

Innovate UK 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.

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

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

A UK business can be both the administrative and technical lead.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

The technical and administrative leads can work in collaboration with others, including international partners. This is not mandatory in phase 1.

To collaborate with the lead organisation, you must:

  • Be a business, research organisation, public sector organisation, or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • Or be a charity and other not for profit organisation
  • Be invited to take part by the administrative lead

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 business can lead on one application (as either administrative or technical lead) and collaborate in a further 2 applications (as either administrative or technical lead, or as another partner).

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

Innovate UK have allocated up to £9.3million for both phases.

In phase 1 £1.8million is allocated to fund feasibility studies. Innovate UK 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. Innovate UK have allocated up to £7.5million and expect to fund up to 15 projects.

Innovate UK 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

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.