Been busy innovating? 6 more challenges to apply for

There are plenty of opportunities to showcase your ideas and innovation to improve the lives of people worldwide. Photo by: Stanford / CC BY-NC-SA

About half of the world relies on groundwater for drinking and agriculture purposes. Oftentimes, though, groundwater is briny, making it unsuitable for human consumption and crop irrigation.

Is there a way to desalinate brackish water in an efficient, affordable and sustainable manner that would serve that dual purpose?

Earlier this month, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, issued a call for breakthrough solutions that would meet such a challenge. The Desai Prize is the second call under the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development, which seeks innovations that can enable food production with less water.

Click here to learn how you can compete for the Desai Prize. The sponsors welcome applications through Aug. 1, 2014.

Aside from the Desai Prize, there are a few other challenges out there for development innovators. Here are six more:

Cannes Chimera 2014

Funder: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Application period: through Aug. 1, 2014
Amount of funding: up to $100,000 in project funding
Eligibility: primarily communications professionals

Called the Greatest Brief Ever, the challenge seeks innovative communications concepts — whether a new tool, platform, product or storytelling idea — that can inspire millennials or those aged 18-34 in the United States, United Kingdom, France or Germany to get involved in the fight against hunger, preventable disease and poverty. It welcomes both single and multiple-country concepts.

Enabling Writers

Funder: USAID, World Vision and Australian government
Application period: through Oct. 1, 2014
Amount of funding: $12,000 to the three finalists who have chance to win the grand prize of $100,000
Eligibility: individuals and organizations from anywhere around the globe

Enabling Writers is a prize competition under the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development. The goal is to develop software that will enable writers to easily create and export texts in native languages so early primary students, or those in grades one to three, can learn to read.

Human Development Innovation Fund

Funder: U.K. Department for International Development
Application period: first round ends Aug. 31, 2014; second round begins in 2015
Amount of funding: up to 400,000 pounds ($680,000) for all first round grants and up to 3 million pounds for all second round grants
Eligibility: medium to large enterprises in Tanzania or those with a partner organization in the African country

HDIF invests in innovative solutions that can improve the quality, value for money and sustainability of education, health care and water, sanitation and hygiene services in Tanzania. All proposed solutions must have already been tested and be ready for implementation.

Ideation challenge: Access to affordable and essential medicines in developing countries

Funder: according to the challenge overview, the funder works to improve access to lifesaving medicines in low- and middle-income countries
Application period: through Aug. 1, 2014
Amount of funding: $5,000
Eligibility: all applicants must register with InnoCentive

The prize will go to the applicant with the best concept for a novel, scalable, easy-to-use, low-cost, prefilled injection device that can be used to deliver essential medicines safely to patients in low- and middle-income countries. All concepts must indicate how the device will be manufactured, filled and sealed.

LAUNCH System Challenge: Green Chemistry

Funder: NASA, Nike, USAID and U.S. State Department
Application period: through Sept. 24, 2014
Amount of funding: although no cash prize will be awarded, the winning innovators will receive an all-expense paid trip to attend the LAUNCH Forum, giving them access to industry experts, inventors as well as business and government leaders; ongoing support to refine and accelerate their solutions; support in articulating a compelling narrative and growth strategy to develop a concise, high-impact presentation which will be livestreamed during the forum and recorded on DVD for future use; media and public relations training and exposure, including a professional video of their innovation stories to be featured on; and continued engagement and access to the LAUNCH network after the challenge cycle
Eligibility: individuals and organizations from anywhere around the globe

LAUNCH is looking for solutions that cut the use of hazardous chemicals in materials and processes; those that enable the use of low environmental impact, renewable feed stocks; chemistry that allows for end-of-life recycling or maximizes the potential for closed-loop systems while minimizing hazard; solutions that boost energy, water, and raw material efficiency, thus reducing the use of constrained resources; those that maximize community, worker, consumer, and environmental safety from hazardous chemicals; and enabling models, education, and tools to help industry and consumers choose greener chemistry alternatives. Applicants that are positioned to “go to market” or scale up their innovative solutions “will receive the most benefit” from the program, according to information about the challenge.

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development

Funder: USAID, SIDA, Duke Energy, Overseas Private Investment Corp. and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
Application period: the next call is expected to be issued in October 2014
Amount of funding: past winners received between $800,000 and $1.5 million
Eligibility: organizations from anywhere around the globe

Powering Agriculture seeks solutions that will allow farmers and others along the agricultural value chain who suffer from the lack or poor quality grid power in developing countries to have access to clean energy. In 2013, the challenge chose 11 winners out of more than 400 applicants from 80 countries.

Are you up for the challenge to innovate for development? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Do you have any innovation news you want to share? Email us at to share your photos, videos and articles, and read our previous #innov8aid.

Read more:

8 innovation challenges you can apply for
Innovations in global development: 6 major game changers
Growth opportunities for Asia-Pacific's innovators

About the author

  • Ma. Eliza Villarino

    Eliza is a veteran journalist focused on covering the most pressing issues and latest innovations in global health, humanitarian aid, sustainability, and development. A member of Mensa, Eliza has earned a master's degree in public affairs and bachelor's degree in political science from the University of the Philippines.