WE4F S/SE Asia RIH Call for Innovations 2021
Addressing Global Trends and Challenges
Water, energy and food (WE4F) are essential for human well-being, poverty reduction, and sustainable development. Global projections indicate that the demand for freshwater, energy and food will increase significantly over the next decades under the pressure of population growth and mobility, economic development, international trade, urbanization, diversifying diets, cultural and technological changes and climate change.
Agriculture accounts for 70% of total global freshwater withdrawals, making it the largest user of water. Water is used for agricultural production, forestry and fishery, along the entire agri-food supply chain, and it is used to produce or transport energy in different forms. At the same time, the food production and supply chain consume about 30 percent of total energy consumed globally. However, the agricultural sector faces challenges in accessing renewable energy in low-income countries as significant barriers – that hinder the integration of renewable energy technology in agricultural development – exist. Likewise, renewable energy enterprises seeking to serve these farmers face a number of barriers such as limited access to debt, a remote client base or a lack of demand due to missing awareness. These issues create an unproductive cycle, in which suppliers and buyers are not connected, and farmers and agribusinesses are unable to leverage more cost-effective renewable energy technologies.
The above described situation is expected to be exacerbated in the near future as 60% more food will need to be produced in order to feed the world population in 2050. Global energy consumption is projected to grow by up to 50% by 2035. Total global water withdrawals for irrigation are projected to increase by 10% by 2050. As demand grows, there is increasing competition for resources between water, energy, agriculture, fisheries, livestock, forestry, mining, transport and other sectors with unpredictable impacts for livelihoods of smallholders, women and youth working in the agricultural sector and the environment as a whole.
Furthermore, these trends will also influence development in general. A largely unproductive agricultural sector with low prospects to increase living standards will increase unemployment rates and the number of working poor – particularly among the youth in these regions. Thus, the creation of jobs, or improvement of those that exist, both within the agricultural sector but also jobs related to non- agricultural activities, can make a crucial contribution towards poverty reduction, food security and sustainable rural and urban development. Targeting women in the agricultural sector both as producers and consumers in this regard is of particular importance since they constitute nearly half of the agricultural workforce and up to 70% in many parts of the world. If women had the same access to resources as their male counterparts, they could increase yields by 20% to 30% and, in the process, feed up to 150 million more people.
WE4F Program Rationale and Objectives
WE4F is a second-generation Grand Challenge for Development that capitalizes on the learnings from Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC) and Securing Water for Food (SWFF). The program aims to address the above-described trends and challenges “traditional” development cooperation to generate new modalities and solutions. WE4F hopes to expand the scale of innovations that impact the sectors food and water, food and energy or all three sectors of the nexus (food, water, energy) to increase the sustainability of agricultural food value chains, improving energy and water efficiency as well as to improve climate resilient agriculture and sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity in developing countries and emerging markets, with a particular focus on the poor and women.
We are looking for organizations with a track record of successful sales and intending to expand their businesses commercially, using a sustainable model. The organizations will benefit from the technical assistance provided to scale up their business and attract private capital. The WE4F grant funding can also be used as a catalyst to attract investors and improve/expand their business. If you have a commercially proven product, service, or sustainable model that you would pitch to an investor for debt or equity investment, we invite you to apply to WE4F. However, WE4F is probably not the right vehicle for you if you have a great idea for a development project but no track record of successful sales.
Target Groups of the WE4F Grand Challenge
WE4F works with entrepreneurship and innovation through the following actors, who are defined as “organizations”:
- Private, for-profit companies that a major part of their business model and innovation addresses the nexus of water-energy-food.
- Non-profits, non-governmental organizations or universities which maintain their own budget, are able to generate revenue and that do this by commercializing an innovative product or service that addresses the nexus of water-energy-food.
- Other actors that are identified on a case-by-case basis by the Regional Innovation Hub and which fit the criteria of WE4F and are crucial for the scaling of impacts.
Through our support for the organizations, WE4F expects to target poor women and men smallholder farmers and others working in all parts of the agriculture value chain. Specifically, our interventions will help organizations providing nexus-relevant products and services reach women and the poor as commercial customers, equipping them with the means to achieve greater earnings and social mobility.
Goal and Focus Areas
WE4F aims to:
- Provide organizations with the technical assistance needed to sustainably scale solutions to meet the challenges in the WE4F nexus.
- Provide companies and organizations with the advisory services and connectivity they need to raise private capital for scaling, in line with their strategic goals.
- Promote climate and environmental resilience and biodiversity through the sustainable, holistic management of natural resources and ecosystems.
- Promote gender-smart sustainable models through targeted and integrated technical assistance.
- Enable the supported organizations to increase food production along the value chain through a more sustainable and efficient usage of water and / or energy.
- Enable the supported organizations to increase income for ‘Base of the Pyramid’ (BOP) women and men in both rural and urban areas.
Thematic Areas in Which Innovation Is Needed
WE4F is looking for organizations with scalable products or services that address the below themes:
- THEME 1: Innovations in food production to reduce water usage
- THEME 2: Efficient use of water resources for food production
- THEME 3: Sustainable use of energy and water on farms
- THEME 4: Energy innovations for food processing, and/or logistics
- THEME 5: Food production with efficient energy use
- THEME 6: Leveraging food waste for energy
Cross-Cutting Critical Barriers
A broad range of complex factors contribute to water scarcity and energy access in the food value chain. WE4F therefore looks to overcome the barriers that inhibit the creation, dissemination, and adoption of science and technology innovations in the focus areas listed above. These include but are NOT limited to:
- The lack of cost-appropriate technologies for use in low-resource settings;
- Insufficient user-centered design in technology development;
- Poorly developed supply chains;
- Lack of distribution networks;
- High up-front investment costs;
- Lack of confidence that developing and emerging countries have the market mechanisms necessary for growth;
- Limited knowledge about local and global policy and regulatory environment that inhibits scaling of innovation;
- Absence of proper financing tools to fund the expansion of companies or organizations selling innovations;
- Limited end-user (and/or farmers) access to finance to promote uptake of innovations;
- Limited access to information that would enable entrepreneurs to make informed investment, operational, and marketing decisions;
- Insufficient information and training to farmers and other end users regarding how to use available technologies / innovations;
- Cultural norms / beliefs, access to / and control over assets and patterns of power and decision-making that could prevent equal participation between men and women;
- Institutional and organizational barriers faced by companies as well as their customers / end-users; and
- Insufficient planning for unintended environmental and social consequences
Applicants will be expected to describe which barriers their innovation will address in their application.
Second Regional Call for Innovation
This is our second “Call” under the Water and Energy for Food program, and we are seeking Concept Notes from eligible organizations. Through this Call, we are seeking technological and business innovations that address the six thematic areas described above.
In this Call, applicants should adhere to the following criteria:
- Operate with a financially sustainable business model, either as a private company or a non-profit organization or academic institution that is responsible for sustainably generating revenue.
- Address the water-energy-food nexus challenges.
- Have a well-defined plan for expansion.
- Build sustainability into the fabric of the intended expansion.
- Understand the local enabling environment for technology and business innovations.
- Promote user-centered design, not technology for the sake of technology.
- Demonstrate direct or strong indirect benefits for the poor.
- Show how their innovation benefits women or improves gender equality.
- Have a local presence and develop market-driven partnerships.
- Have a basic understanding of ESG issues and showcase strong commitment to ESG integration into their business model.
- Have a gender balanced team which can scale up innovation in a sustainable manner.
For more information about each criteria, please refer to the solicitation document (Section I.3).
What Will Not Be Supported
Water and Energy for Food aims to source emerging, cutting-edge business and technology innovations at the water/energy/food nexus. The focus of the challenge is to support organizations commercializing game-changing innovations, with a focus on wide-scale adoption to impact hundreds of thousands to millions of smallholder farmers and other customers. Water and Energy for Food will not fund proposals that do not present a viable business model with sufficient backup documentation for financial sustainability. The program also will NOT support very early-stage companies/organizations.
Applications that will NOT be eligible for award include:
- Applicants that do not operate as a legally registered entity (for-profit business or group within a non-profit or academic institution) in at least one of the countries mentioned in Appendix 1.
- Innovations that fail to clearly demonstrate proven demand – meaning a successful track record of sales at prices that customers are able and willing to pay – and these innovations’ contribution to the applicant’s revenue within the context of a viable, ‘going-concern’ business unit or organization.
- Innovations that fail to demonstrate how they can eventually ensure sustainable benefits in line with the development purpose of WE4F (e.g. enhanced value of the agricultural chain, promotion of food security, sustainable management of natural (including water) resources and ecosystems, promotion of climate resilience and biodiversity, increased broad-based economic growth in developing or emerging countries, and a focus on impacting women and the poor).
- Innovations that fail to clearly demonstrate their positive impact on the poor and women.
- Innovations that fail to demonstrate their positive impact on the environment (or at least that they cause NO negative effect to the environment (including natural resource management, water resource management, climate resilience, and biodiversity).
- Innovations focused on sustainable water supply and energy access without an explicit benefit to the food sector. This agriculture link must have been demonstrated through the organization’s existing customer base.
- Innovations focused on agricultural products and services without a significant and sustainable water or energy efficiency component.
- Products/solutions using or promoting the usage of highly-hazardous pesticides either directly or indirectly (see FAO/WHO International Code of Conduct) in their operations.
- Products/solutions that require any sort of construction or land development activities
- Innovations designed to use fossil fuels
- Large dam projects for water capture and storage.
- Solar mini-grid, micro-grid or Pico projects that lack an explicit benefit to food value chains.
- Wastewater treatment projects that lack an explicit benefit to food value chains.
- Large infrastructure projects.
- Large corporations for which the sale of WE4F nexus-relevant products or services does not represent at least 50% of revenue and / or for which expansion of WE4F nexus-relevant technologies is not a priority objective for strategic growth.
- Technologies that have not reached a minimum customer base of 5,000 customers for a product/solution that costs less than $100. If the business model is B2B, then combined end-users of all direct customers should be more than 5,000.
- Technologies that have not reached a minimum customer base of 1000 customers for a product/solution that costs more than $100. If the business model is B2B, then combined end-users of all direct customers should be more than 1,000.
For winners of this challenge, WE4F will feature their interventions, facilitate access to funding and networking opportunities, and provide technical assistance to support the proposed activity in achieving measurable results and impact.
WE4F will award Fixed Amount Awards (FAA) between $25,000 and $200,000 subject to the availability of funding. Each FAA will be funded based on milestones and an implementation plan that are mutually agreed upon. Grant-funded activities must be completed within one to two years. The applicants who are not successful for the grant award may still be considered for strategic technical assistance and investment facilitation supports that will help them scale.
Challenge winners will be announced by May 2022.
October 4th, 2021
Apply for the WE4F S/SE RIH Second Call for Innovations here.
Deadline for Questions
October 19th, 2021 at 17:00 GMT+7.
Please submit questions to WE4FAsiaBids@tetratech.com. Questions will be answered during the webinar.
October 21st, 2021 at 10:00 GMT+7.
WE4F's S/SE Asia RIH will host a webinar to discuss the challenge’s goals, components of a successful application, and answer questions submitted. All questions and answers and a recording of the webinar will be posted under the Resources below. WE4F's S/SE Asia RIH will not answer questions about an application’s quality or topicality. Sign up here to register for the Q&A webinar and follow @WE4F on Twitter to learn how to participate in the webinar.
November 2021 - February 2022
After an internal eligibility screen, expert judges will review the remaining applications and assess them against the judging criteria listed on this website. Semi-Finalists will then be notified to complete the Full application questions as noted in the call for innovations. Expert judges will then review the Full applications and determine a list of finalists. Finalists will be interviewed by a panel of WE4F's S/SE Asia RIH staff and affiliated partners.
Variable between May 2021 - March 2024
The information provided on this website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands, and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit.