FAQs – The GSMA Innovation Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation

The GSMA Innovation Fund supports innovative digital solutions with positive socio-economic impact on low-income households. We believe digital solutions have the power to sustainably reduce inequalities within our world by connecting everyone and everything to a better future. The FAQs attempt to clarify some of the common questions applicants raise. However, to get the full overview of the Fund we recommend you read the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs)

What is the objective of the Fund?

The objective of the Fund is to test and generate insights from innovative use-cases, partnerships and business models across selected geographies, in order to improve sustainability and scalability of digital climate resilience and adaptation solutions with socio-economic and commercial impact on the lives of people vulnerable to current or future climate risks.

The grant projects must seek to demonstrate: 

  • How innovative digital technology (with a focus on mobile) can increase the capacity of low-income and vulnerable communities to adapt to, anticipate and/or absorb climate-related shocks or stresses;
  • What business models and partnerships are required for innovative digital solutions to be adopted sustainably and at scale;
  • What additional socio-economic, commercial and environmental/climate impact can be achieved by using digital solutions to build climate resilience and adaptation solutions; and
  • What role mobile operators and other technology companies can play in these business models and how they can make their role commercially sustainable.

For more details, please refer to the T&Cs.

What is a 'climate resilience and adaptation' solution?

We define ‘climate resilience and adaptation solutions’ as solutions that build the capacities of individuals, communities or institutions to:

  • Adapt to multiple, long-term and future climate change risks;
  • Anticipate and reduce the impact of climate variability and extremes through preparedness and planning; and/or
  • Absorb (i.e. face and manage) adverse conditions, emergencies or disasters.

What kind of climate resilience and adaptation solutions are you looking for?

Given the broad and far-reaching impact of climate change, we expect to see a diverse range of resilience and adaptation solutions. These could include, but are not limited to, the following project types:

  • Supporting and enhancing livelihoods (e.g. precision agriculture, pay-as-you-go farming equipment, sustainable fisheries, long term weather forecasting, online/digital marketplaces).
  • Smart cities and access to services (e.g. cooling solutions for homes, tools that help households cope with increased water scarcity, smart transport).
  • Climate hazard information and advice (e.g. early warning systems, short term weather forecasts, coastal risk information, real-time flood monitoring, fire detection).
  • Nature-based solutions that contribute to building community resilience (e.g. forest management and restoration, payment for ecosystem services, green infrastructure).
  • Insurance and other financial services that help households meet their consumption needs in the immediate aftermath of a hazard (e.g. weather index insurance).

If your solution builds one or more of the capacities outlined in the second question above, and positively impacts populations that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (which tend to be those who are economically, culturally, politically and otherwise marginalised), we encourage you to apply.

Are climate mitigation projects eligible?

While some resilience and adaptation solutions will have climate mitigation benefits, projects with a sole and specific focus on climate mitigation (reducing and avoiding emissions) are excluded from the Fund.

What level of project maturity are you looking for?

Through the Fund, the GSMA aims to:

  • Test innovations that can increase the capacity of low-income and vulnerable communities to adapt to, anticipate and/or absorb climate-related shocks or stresses; and
  • Develop approaches or business models that can be scaled or replicated in similar markets to build climate resilience and adaptation.

The GSMA will assess all stages of product development, but preference will be given to projects/solutions that have been successfully piloted and tested with users.

Will the Fund support the development or prototyping of new hardware solutions?

The Fund will not support the development or prototyping of any new hardware solutions. Where there is a proposal to use existing hardware solutions (e.g. weather monitoring equipment) as part of the project, applicants must be able to clearly demonstrate that all required approvals for wide scale importation and use of the hardware exist prior to grant execution.  In instances where there is assembly of completed pre-existing, previously used or off the shelf hardware components this may be considered on a case-by-case basis by the GSMA. Applicants will need to show that hardware components have been sufficiently tested, deployed in the field and/or rolled out to users with positive results.

The GSMA will assess the following with regards to hardware viability:

  • The stage of hardware development for the product/solution.
  • Time it takes to fully complete hardware development from start to finish.
  • Complexity of the product/hardware development.
  • Procurement assessment: Evaluate potential supply chain challenges in acquiring hardware components. This includes availability of hardware components.

Refer to section 2 of the T&Cs.

Who can and can't apply for funding?

Please refer to the T&Cs for more details on the types of organisations the Fund is looking to support and the eligibility criteria for applying for funding.

If you have been previously awarded a grant by the GSMA, FCDO and/or Sida are you still eligible for this grant?

Grantees that have successfully completed their grant from the GSMA are eligible to apply. However, the Fund is looking to test new and innovative business models which will be sustainable following the end of the grant. Therefore, you will need to demonstrate why additional funding will achieve something the original grant could not, or that the grant-funded project will contribute to new industry insights.  

How do you define a start-up and small and growing enterprise?

For-profit start-ups, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and social enterprises with up to 250 employees that have generated revenue from sales and have significant potential and ambition for growth. To be eligible, applicants will need to demonstrate that a majority of their income is derived from commercial activities. Early-stage companies who have not reached this threshold will need to demonstrate a reliable path to sustainability via commercial activities that generate revenue to be considered.

Can NGOs apply for funding?

NGOs will need to demonstrate that a majority of their income is derived from commercial activities to be eligible. NGOs that do not meet this test are not eligible to apply or receive grant funding. However, such entities can partner with eligible organisations and be project partners.

Can governments and government-owned or appointed agencies, universities or academic organisations apply for funding?

While the Fund highly encourages partnerships with these entities, they will not be directly eligible to apply or receive grant funding. 

Are enablers like incubators and accelerators eligible to apply? 

No. Incubators and accelerators are not eligible to apply for funding. We welcome their support to recommend eligible start-ups in their current or past cohorts to apply directly.

Can mobile network operators (MNOs) apply to the Fund?

No. The Fund aims to support innovative small and growing businesses that are willing and able to work with MNOs, rather than providing support directly to MNOs. Note, applications from eligible organisations working in partnership with MNOs are welcomed and encouraged.

Can a consortium apply to the Fund? 

Applicants cannot apply as a consortium. Only one organisation can apply for funding and become a grantee. An applicant can have downstream partners – see the GSMA downstream partners’ policy who have a role in the grant project.  

It is important that at the proposal stage the GSMA has full sight of all downstream partners to ensure that the Lead Applicant has (or plans to) appropriately procure, undertake satisfactory due diligence checks and properly contract them. This is because the GSMA is required to communicate full and accurate information about project delivery chains to its donors and ensure that an appropriate level of scrutiny and oversight is applied to all organisations in those delivery chains.

Is there a requirement for how long a start-up should have been registered as a legal entity prior to applying?

There is no requirement on how long the applicant needs to have been registered as a legal entity.  

The Fund will consider applications from organisations that are in early stages of operations as long as they are able meet all eligibility requirements, including being able to demonstrate that they are/have:

  • Registered as a legal entity and have a bank account in the country where they will receive the grant money.
  • Active users and revenue in at least one eligible market in Africa, South or South East Asia, Pacific, Caribbean, Latin America (LATAM), Eastern Europe and Western Balkans (see ineligible countries in the T&Cs); and
  • Able to provide unqualified audited financial accounts as a condition for funding.

How do we estimate how much impact we will have for the project?

The Fund aims to have the maximum impact on low-income and vulnerable communities, as well as environmental/climate impact. However, we expect all applicants to be both realistic and honest when they disclose the market potential or number of people they plan to reach. You will be asked to demonstrate (within reason) how you estimated the impact number you submit and how you will measure them throughout the life of the grant. If there are significant discrepancies between the pitch and panel stages (regarding impact numbers), it may result in the application being removed from the process.    

What does it mean to ‘demonstrate the potential and appetite to form a strategic partnership with mobile operators’?

The Fund is especially interested in understanding how you are currently working or might work with a mobile operator in your market during and after the grant project. We encourage you to share details of your current engagement with mobile operators or plans to engage with them in the future in your application. 

Applicants do not need an existing partnership with a mobile operator to be eligible to apply for funding. However, all applicants must demonstrate having the appetite to form strategic partnerships with mobile operators and should be able to articulate the value proposition for a mobile operator. 

What kinds of partnerships are encouraged, and what evidence should we provide for these partnerships? 

The Fund encourages partnerships with MNOs and technology organisations, as well as other public and private ecosystem players including governments, government-owned agencies (or appointed agencies), universities or academic institutions, start-up accelerators and incubators. 

Partnerships with governments, government-owned agencies (or appointed agencies) and other utility companies will need to be evidenced if the application proceeds to proposal stage. Organisations piloting with government clients must have an MoU that demonstrates political will and capacity to commit to the project, prior to the final submission of the proposal to the Fund Panel (May 2022), although this can be in progress during the application process.  

Organisations selling a service to a government during the grant, must have a commercial agreement, prior tofinal submission of the proposal to the Fund Panel, although this can be in progress during the application process.  

Does the grant funding have to be used for a project targeting just one country or can it be used for a project across the entire region e.g. several markets in Africa, South Asia or South-east Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America?

The Fund is open to applications with projects focusing on one single market or across multiple markets (where eligibility criteria is met for each market).   

N.B. Applications for projects in multiple markets will need to demonstrate that the projects can be effectively managed and completed within 18 months. If there are concerns about the feasibility of managing multiple markets, applicants may be advised to prioritise one market.  

The Lead Applicant must apply for funding for a project in one or more of the eligible countries as set out in the T&Cs). 

How should we decide the grant amount we are asking for during the pitch stage?

We require applicants to be realistic and honest with grant requests as you will have to demonstrate how you will spend the money efficiently. The amount requested should correlate with what you require to deliver the solution you want the GSMA to fund (the project). Grant funding will not be used for costs that do not have a direct link to the project you are pitching.  

If a project progresses from the pitch stage to the proposal stage, both the project and financial proposal will be scrutinised to ensure the applicant can justify the spending of grant funding requested and ensuring value for money for donors. In the majority of cases, where you have clearly justified the amount, the Fund Panel will approve the amount requested, but this is not always the case. 

If we apply for £100,000 at the pitch stage, is this the amount that we will receive from the Fund if we are awarded a grant or could the amount we receive be lower?

Applicants that are shortlisted at the pitch stage will be invited to submit a full proposal with a budget. The budget and activities will be reviewed to ensure all spend is commensurate with the objectives of the Fund and demonstrate good use of donor funds. 

Is matched funding mandatory and what counts as a match funding contribution?

Yes, match funding contribution is mandatory. The Fund requires a match funding contribution from the applicant in order to demonstrate interest and trust from the wider investor community.  

Acceptance of match funding is subject to approval by the Fund: 

  • Applicants must provide at least 25% of requested grant amount between £100,000 to £150,000.
  • Applicants must provide a match funding contribution of at least 50% of requested grant amount between £150,001 to £250,000.
  • Match funding contributions must be used towards the proposed project and spent in full during the 15 to 18 month project cycle.
  • Match funding contributions can be made ‘in-cash’ and/or ‘in-kind’ and can be provided by the Lead Applicant themselves or a third-party. For more details and examples of what constitutes ‘in-cash’ or ‘in-kind’, please refer to the T&Cs).

Does the specific partner that will be contributing to the match funding have to be decided and secured before pitch submission? Or can that be confirmed later?

If a project proceeds to the proposal stage, the Lead Applicant will be required to provide evidence that the match funding contribution has been secured or will be secured, through proof of revenues for internal sourcing and/or proof of external sourcing, prior to the Fund Panel (May 2022). Failure to provide this evidence may mean the proposal will not be presented to the Fund Panel. Please refer to the T&Cs) for examples of evidence.

Can I edit my application once it has been submitted?

Applicants that have already submitted their applications in full will be given an opportunity to edit and resubmit their applications again before the extended deadline of 23.59 GMT 23 January 2022. Please log in to your ScreenDoor account to make any edits ahead of this deadline.

Applications cannot be submitted after the deadline of 23.59 GMT 23 January 2022 and any drafts including personal details will be deleted after this time.  

Can I submit more than one application for projects?

Multiple submissions for the same project are not permitted. In cases where this occurs, the first submission will be reviewed if it is eligible and all duplicate submissions will be deemed ineligible and not reviewed. 

Applications for different projects from the same organisation are allowed, although we do not encourage this approach. You must demonstrate and consider how you spend your own resources through this process and if you are able to support the application of more than one proposal.

Can I speak with someone personally if I still have questions?

While we are unable to address all individual questions, The GSMA Innovation Fund for Climate Resilience and Adaptation hosted two webinar sessions on Tuesday 30 November to address frequently asked questions.

Webinar slides
Webinar recording

Since this is a fully competitive process we keep applicant details anonymous, and you will have the option to ask questions anonymously online. Finally, for urgent enquiries you can email GSMAIF@gsma.com. Please expect a response within 2-3 working days. Questions received after the 5 January 2022 will not be answered.