Earlier this year, the first Call for Proposals was launched by the second phase of the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2) Innovation Fund supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and the governments of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia as well as the Secretariat of Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“The SAIS 2 Innovation Fund is the key mechanism through which the Programme assists local initiatives that promote early-stage entrepreneurship and build an understanding what works in innovation ecosystems to facilitate entrepreneurs in the SADC region”, says Flora Ismail Tibazarwa, SAIS 2 Programme Director.
An extensive communications campaign was rolled out throughout the five SAIS 2 partner countries to inform potential applicants ready to compete for the SAIS 2 Innovation Fund grants. This first call reached beyond national borders attracting other SADC and African countries and even international partners. Several organisations joint forces to form cross-border consortiums seeking support for projects in line with the three funding windows of the SAIS 2 Innovation Fund. Window 1, Developing Institutional Capacity for Regional Innovation Cooperation (Stronger Ecosystems), Window 2, Scaling Enterprises Through Stronger Innovation Support Organisations and Window 3 Inclusive Innovations.
“One of the key requirements was that applications should be submitted by a consortium comprising different type of organisations collaborating towards a joint goal in a given innovation ecosystem. Thus, we have received submissions from a mix of skills and capabilities from project members coming together and spreading across not only the region, but internationally as well. This speaks not only to the regionality of the Programme, but also to the replicability aspect of the project interventions by learning from peers and working to find solutions to common societal problems.” says Sharon Emvula, SAIS 2 Regional Programme Officer.
At the close of the first stage of the call, a total of 149 concept notes were received of which 87 were screened and deemed eligible for evaluation. An Evaluation Committee comprising of independent experts from SADC and international countries evaluated the concept notes, resulting in a shortlist of 43 project concept notes that were invited to submit a Full Proposal, which is stage two of the SAIS 2 Innovation Fund process. The Full Proposal stage evaluation was concluded at a recently held SAIS 2 Supervisory Board (SVB) meeting, where 13 shortlisted projects were approved to receive SAIS 2 funding based on their full project proposals. The SAIS 2 PMO has notified the successful grantees and will soon enter negotiations and contracting for the projects to be implemented in the five SAIS 2 partner countries and across the SADC region.
“As we enter the final leg of the process by actually kicking-off these excellent projects we are eager to have a front-row seat to the impact that they will be effecting within their communities locally and regionally across Southern Africa.” says Ilari Patrick Lindy, Lead Expert at the SAIS 2 Programme Management Office.