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The Tech Clusters: Innovation Challenge Fund 2020

April 7

Innovation Challenge Fund 2020

The Tech Clusters: Innovation Challenge Fund 2020

The UK Government is delighted to announce that a new £2 million fund is now open for applications for innovative projects in Artificial Intelligence / Data Science  that address social or environmental challenges in India. We expect to make 4-10 awards of between £200,000 – £500,000 over up to 24 months to fund research and development projects by consortia including researchers and industry from India and international partners, including the UK. Proposals will be considered by an expert panel against the assessment criteria outlined here.

The Tech Clusters: Innovation Challenge Fund 2020 will fund innovative research and development projects in Artificial Intelligence / Data Science that propose tech led or tech enabled solutions to social and/or environmental challenges in India. The central aim of the Innovation Challenge Fund is to support the development of the Karnataka Artificial Intelligence / Data Science Tech Cluster by promoting closer scientific collaboration between industry and academia, and by promoting links with international counterparts and centres of excellence, including in the UK. As such, proposals for research and development projects are invited from consortia made up of researchers and industry from India, and international counterparts, including the UK. Projects must be led by an Indian not-for-profit organisation. Projects can either develop original ideas or adapt successful technologies, techniques or processes from other fields.

The Challenge Fund is looking for proposals in the following Challenge Areas in India:

  • Healthcare (eg projects addressing infectious diseases, maternal mortality or health data collection
  • Environmental protection (eg projects addressing the detection of pollutant sources)Connectivity (eg first mile/last mile, multi modal hubs, micro mobility/village to village mobility)
  • Water management (eg projects addressing water sourcing and distribution in cities)
  • Energy (eg projects addressing clean energy/renewables and carbon footprint reduction)
  • Future mobility (ie how we move people, goods and services around our towns, cities and countryside. We are looking for technology solutions that increase our ability to achieve these goals, supporting economic growth and doing so in a manner that reduces the detrimental health effects caused by pollution.)
  • Agriculture (especially projects addressing predictive analytics of cultivation patterns)
  • Education (eg virtual learning environments, intelligent tutoring systems)
  • Increasing Access to Information
  • Financial inclusion (eg improving user experience for vulnerable groups)
  • Other ie we will consider proposals which do not fit into the above categories provided the focus is on Artificial Intelligence / Data Science

Proposals should focus on at least one Challenge Area, but we recognise that there may be some natural overlap. Separate applications can be made if consortia wish to submit proposals for more than one Challenge Area. If your consortia are working on a project which doesn’t quite fit into one of the above Challenge Areas but still centres around AI and Data Science, please submit a concept note and we will consider it. We will prioritise proposals that can demonstrate the potential to particularly benefit the poorest third of society, women or other marginalised groups in India. We aim to award funding to a diverse range of projects across the Challenge Areas, so we may prioritise proposals addressing certain Challenge Areas depending on the range of proposals we receive.


Grants will be awarded to a lead organisation which must be an Indian not-for-profit organisation and should have the necessary FCRA clearances. We expect this will be a university or research organisation based in Karnataka. Applicants must demonstrate collaboration with other organisations. Applicants will need to explain how their proposal will facilitate the development of partnerships between researchers, industry (including but not limited to start-ups, scale-ups and small & medium enterprises), and potentially NGOs, policymakers and practitioners in India and counterparts abroad. Consortia must be composed as follows:





  • Indian university research department or research institute or academic
  • Indian business (including but not limited to start-ups, scale-ups and small & medium enterprises)
  • At least one of these organisations must have a base in Karnataka

  • International business
  • International university or research organisation

  • Indian or International non-commercial organisation


The lead organisation will be responsible for the overall management of the grant including control, disbursement and assurance of funds.

All applicants will need to show that their proposed idea has a credible and practical route to market. Applicants must ensure they have considered and addressed requirements on Official Development Assisstance (ODA) and gender inequality.

Decision Making Process

There is a two stage application process. At the first stage, applicants must submit a two page concept note summarising their proposal and how it meets the criteria. With the permission of applicants, these will be published on this website, along with the contact details of the lead applicant. This will allow organisations or individuals who would like to be part of a consortia but have not found suitable partners to identify potential partners for them. We hope to give brief feedback to all applicants who submit a concept note but if we receive an unexpectedly high number of applications, we may only be able to provide feedback to those who we would encourage to submit a final bid.

We will then invite final bids. After the deadline, an initial office sift will be undertaken for ODA and gender equality compliance and fit to remit and scope of the call. Eligible proposals will be considered by a specially convened expert panel at a meeting in June 2020 who will assess the proposals against the above detailed assessment criteria. The panel will make recommendations for funding to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). FCO may wish to apply additional conditions on grants, and there may be subsequent negotiations on the details of the support offered. As part of the due diligence process, organisations will be required to work with the FCO programme team to provide the necessary information. Please be aware that organisations may be contacted by the FCO at any point during the review process for further information. This is in order to expedite our assurance process. Funding decisions are expected to be announced in August 2020 and awards are expected to commence shortly after.

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