The GSMA launches its newest innovation fund to address humanitarian challenges

Applications for the GSMA’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund, which has distributed over £5 million since 2017, are now open to start-ups, SMEs and social enterprises 

11 December 2023, London: The GSMA has today announced the launch of its newest GSMA Innovation Fund, in partnership with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), to address humanitarian challenges.  

The Fund provides grant funding of up to £250,000 and additional non-financial and technical assistance to test and support new solutions that use digital technologies – especially mobile – to address humanitarian challenges in low- and middle-income countries. Humanitarian challenges include, but are not limited to, food insecurity, displacement, and natural hazards such as floods, earthquakes and typhoons.  

In addition, the Fund is interested in solutions that improve preparedness and response to humanitarian challenges using frontier tech, such as AI and the IoT; that respond to the needs of crisis-affected populations, including internally displaced persons and refugees, through access to humanitarian assistance, services and life-saving information; or existing innovations that can be adapted or replicated in a new context to respond to a humanitarian challenge. 

While the GSMA’s Innovation Fund has typically supported non-profit and non-government organisations, this year’s Fund is focused specifically on for-profit small and growing enterprises – including start-ups. The specific focus on for-profit enterprises will help the GSMA support a new range of humanitarian innovations, leverage its unique expertise in enabling public and private partnerships, and generate insights and evidence from these innovations to benefit crisis-affected communities, the humanitarian sector, and digital and mobile industry stakeholders.  

Organisations not eligible to apply for this year’s Fund include non-profit and non-government organisations, mobile network operators, universities and other academic institutions, and start-up accelerators and incubators. However, applicants are encouraged to have partnerships with these bodies when it strengthens the value proposition of their application.  

Applications now open 

Applications for the GSMA Innovation Fund are now open and can be submitted here by completing a short online ‘Pitch’, describing how a project meets the funding criteria. All applications must be submitted in English by no later than 23:59 GMT on Monday 12th February 2024.  

A higher priority will be given to applicants whose organisations are female-founded and/or female-led; whose projects have a strong presence in their country of implementation and a commitment to supporting/upskilling local staff; who have partnerships with relevant local stakeholders to deliver the project on the ground; and who have a clear understanding of how their solutions improve preparedness or response capacity to humanitarian challenges, and have proactively taken steps to set targets to measure the impact of their project. 

The Fund is only open to applicants whose projects are implemented in countries that are eligible to receive official development assistance in Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America.  

Max Cuvellier Giacomelli, Head of Mobile Development at the GSMA, said: “With over 350 million people worldwide requiring humanitarian assistance, there is an urgent need to support the funding and development of innovations that improve the preparedness and early warning capacity of affected communities. Research has shown that the most effective solutions are often designed by those closest to the issue, and the GSMA’s Innovation Fund aims to support the enterprises working on the ground to minimise the impact of any potential crises.” 

Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser and Director for Research and Evidence at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said: “We look forward to supporting a new cohort of innovators who are committed to addressing difficult humanitarian challenges. Through our partnership with the GSMA we have already supported a number of innovative solutions to development challenges. I am confident that this latest round will produce innovative models and technologies that can build greater resilience to and enable swifter action in response to the many crises that the world faces today.” 

The GSMA’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund has now provided funding and technical support to 29 innovative solutions and distributed over £5 million since 2017. For more information on the GSMA’s Innovation Fund, please see here


About GSMA 

The GSMA is a global organisation unifying the mobile ecosystem to discover, develop and deliver innovation foundational to positive business environments and societal change. Our vision is to unlock the full power of connectivity so that people, industry, and society thrive. Representing mobile operators and organisations across the mobile ecosystem and adjacent industries, the GSMA delivers for its members across three broad pillars: Connectivity for Good, Industry Services and Solutions, and Outreach. This activity includes advancing policy, tackling today’s biggest societal challenges, underpinning the technology and interoperability that make mobile work, and providing the world’s largest platform to convene the mobile ecosystem at the MWC and M360 series of events. 

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