Frequently Asked Questions

If you plan to submit a proposal for funding, please read over all of these questions and answers completely. If your question isn’t listed below send us a note.

1. Are there any deadlines? I didn’t see that mentioned on the submission form.

Unless otherwise stated, we do not have a deadline. Funding open source innovation in energy access is what EnAccess does full-time! Occasionally you may notice that we ask for proposals for certain types of projects or in certain locations, and those will usually be more deadline-driven. But generally speaking, we want to hear your ideas anytime.

2. What types of projects and activities do you fund?

Our projects address either challenges or high potential opportunities that are shared across the industry. Our ongoing call for proposals divides the types of projects into two categories (explained below), and occasionally we may also put out a specific call for proposals, focusing on one sort of idea or one location in the world.

 

For our ongoing work, we look for what we broadly consider to be “Building Blocks” and we can fund projects at Concept or Pilot stages. The type of funding is laid out clearly on the submission page, but here’s a bit more information.

 

Innovation Pilot projects create shared solutions for problems that are commonly faced across the industry. As an example: mini-grid companies need to design and estimate the costs of a distribution network for potential project sites. While some companies have an in-house team and/or tool to address this need, no such network design tool exists on a freely accessible and open source basis. This means that new or upcoming mini-grid companies will have to spend time and resources figuring out this aspect of their operations. While being able to design and cost a distribution network is a critical part of becoming a commercially viable mini-grid company, it’s not the source of sustainable competitive advantage. In this sense, this shared challenge could be easily addressed by an open source tool. An open source network design tool would be what we’d call a sector “Building Block”. All developers could download the tool, adapt it to their needs, and start using it in their operations.

 

Moonshot concepts research high potential opportunities that might inspire new thinking in the industry. Whereas Innovations Pilots are usually quite defined, working on a new concept could be open ended and highly uncertain. We don’t always know how these projects will turn out, but are happy to take risks on ideas that we find promising. One example might be a series of discussions that explore opportunities to harness artificial intelligence (AI) in energy access. The results of this kind of exploration could be a whitepaper describing an innovation roadmap for the industry, a research webinar, a concept note for a new organization, or a prototype tool analyzing data from various organizations.

 

Whether your project is big or small, concretely defined or exploratory, and has to do with either commercial or technology development, we can support it. We are looking for radical ideas that can push new thinking or bring efficiencies to the industry. To learn more about our selection process and criteria, see “How do you select projects to fund?”.

 

Innovations with potential to have significant impact in terms of accelerating energy access at sectoral level delivered through good value for money have higher chances to be funded vs proposals with a large budget and uncertainty in its impact.

3. How do you select which projects you will fund?​

In terms of specific selection criteria, we review several factors.

 

1. Demonstrated market need and/or appetite

We assess - either through a dedicated market research/stakeholders consultation, or based on our own experience - whether the proposed innovation is likely going to be useful and needed for the Energy Access sector.

 

2. Evidence-based theory of change
This criteria aims at ensuring that a certain proposed innovation is justified by evidence, and not (solely) by the Innovator’s guts feeling.

 

3. Logical framework foundation
The proposed project narrative follows a logical framework and correctly identifies and connects cause-effect relationships.

 

4. Potential for sector-building impact
This criterium concerns the direct applicability of the innovation to energy access. This is the place where we draw the line between direct and indirect effect; if we think that an innovation will only very remotely affect the sector, we tend to discard the proposal. This is related and goes hand-in-hand with point 1 above.

 

5. Innovative content
The proposed project must be innovative to the best of our knowledge, suggesting a significant improvement in existing models or technologies or at least open sourcing them for a wider audience than currently reached by the incumbent.

 

6. Open Source
The proposed innovation must be entirely open sourced, potential future adopters must be able to reproduce and use the innovation in its entirety with reasonable effort and without needing specific exclusive underpinning technologies or requirements. Here we focus on funding the “building blocks”.

 

7. Capacity of the partner to deliver
The innovator or applicant must provide sufficient background experience in the sector and in the proposed category of innovation to give us the confidence in their ability to deliver on the proposed innovation.

 

8. Quality of the project plan and budget
The proposed project plan is practical and reflects the most closest reflection of the resource requirement with proper explanation to deliver the innovation and not inflated to cover applicant’s organizations usual business expenses.

 

9. Project-specific risks
The proposal is also reviewed on any direct or indirect risks identified either during the evaluation of the proposal or dependency on 3rd parties to deliver the project.

 

10. Timeframe of project
We strongly prefer projects that can be completed within 12 months.

 

As a heads up, the rigor of our selection process adjusts with the amount of funding being requested.

4. Are there any limitations to the type of costs you can cover? 
Will you e.g. cover office costs, hiring of developers, travel, material purchases?

Every dollar EnAccess spends must go towards Open Source content. This typically means any management, overhead and other similar items are excluded from the expenditures that make up the total "price" of the innovation. EnAccess is there to help the entire sector, and making sure funds are used wisely for the benefit of the sector is part of that.

5. Can we still monetise or sell the Open Innovation funded by EnAccess?​

Yes, you can!
 Nevertheless, please keep in mind that the open innovation resulting from the project funded by EnAccess must be self standing. While EnAccess encourages you to monetise the open innovation, e.g: via support services, freemium models, etc, it must be possible for someone else to adopt the resulting innovation, without your involvement, and have a satisfactory experience. Please think about this carefully.

6. I'm hesitating to submit my proposal because I'm not sure that it's "perfect" - will EnAccess give a straight "Yes" or "No", or is there a chance to hear feedback?​

The short answer is that we give feedback to every applicant. Also applications that are almost there or which we feel have potential to grow into something fitting will definitely be supported to be tuned to fit into the EnAccess criteria. We believe the application process should be a conversation, not a gamble.

7. Do I need to fill out every single question completely on the form? Or what if I have more to tell you than you’re asking?

If for some reason you can’t answer the question, please explain why in the space provided.

 

Applicants can submit any additional documents (eg. pitch deck, presentations) in an additional section of the online application form.

8. What happens after I submit my proposal for funding?​

Applications are reviewed on a first come, first serve basis. Once you’ve clicked “submit” on your proposal, this is the process that takes place.

 

  • Step One: When your application has been received by a real person, you’ll get an email confirmation that we have it in good order. This usually takes 1-2 business days. 

 

  • Step Two: The pre-evaluation team screens the proposal on key evaluation criteria and scores its scope and potential to impact the sector. It can take 1-2 weeks for this discussion to conclude. If the proposal does not fall under the EnAccess mandate at all, you will hear a rejection at this time. If the proposal is very far from what EnAccess funds or if you didn’t fill out the proposal correctly at all (for example, if you send the proposal in a language other than English), you may be rejected more quickly.

 

  • Step Three: If the pre-eval team thinks the proposal could meet our funding criteria, you will receive a positive email from EnAccess asking to schedule a call to go over some details. This email may already come with a series of follow-up questions that you should be prepared to answer.  At this point, we need to get your response before we move ahead. Assuming the back-and-forth communication happens rather efficiently, this part of the process can take one week. If the communication does not happen quickly, this part can end up taking longer. To move this step along, please respond promptly and completely to any emails we send. 

 

  • Step Four: If the follow-up communication from step four leads us to decide that your proposal does not meet our funding criteria, you will receive an email with that information (a rejection). On the other hand, if we think your proposal has potential, you are moved on to the next round: the stakeholder consultation. 

 

  • Step Five: The stakeholder consultation looks different project-to-project and it can take 8-12 weeks. However, there are ways of moving things along faster. You can get the conversation going in the community forum quickly and invite others to participate in the conversation and submit feedback. You can provide us with a list of 3-5 other companies (including competitors) along with any contact information, so we can do our own due diligence. In this stage, we are looking for and need to see hard evidence that your proposal is something that the Energy Access sector wants and needs. It is crucial for us to see that other stakeholders plan to use your innovation in their own companies. We would love for this part of the process to take less time, so if you’re willing to work with us, we can absolutely shorten this part to 2-4 weeks

 

  • Last Step: We define the deliverables, negotiate the contract and get things written up legally. This part usually takes 1-2 weeks. Again, the speed of this process also heavily depends on your availability and responsiveness. Once the contracts are signed, we will start releasing funds according to the terms of the contract based on deliverables.

9. What are the contractual and reporting requirements?​

Once the project is selected, a contract will be developed in accordance with EnAccess standard contracting procedure and policies. Contract will include the detailed budget, implementation plan, milestones and deliverables and any project-specific reporting requirements. After the grant contract is signed, the implementation of the project will commence immediately.

 

For every funded project, we create a shared working folder (e.g. on Dropbox or Google Drive) so that we can follow progress in real-time. Instead of written reports, we check in monthly to discuss the project. These calls are held at a technical level; we want to learn about what’s going on, what’s going well, what’s hard, what you are learning, how things could be better, and how we can help. These conversations are recorded so that we can refer back to them when finalizing the project (Note: We don’t publish these recordings). These calls and the deliverables that are provided throughout the project form the basis of our reporting.

10. What kinds of organizations can submit projects?​

We work with startups and established companies, non-profits, individual innovators, investors, and researchers. During our screening, we’ll ask questions to assess applicants/ organizations capacity to deliver the project.

11. Can my organization submit more than one project?​

Yes. We’re a small team; please consider this if making multiple submissions.

12. Can I submit a project in collaboration with partner organizations?

Yes. We will contract with one “lead” entity, but you are free to collaborate with partners.

 

13. Can I submit an application in a language other than English?

No. Within our team we speak quite a lot of languages, but the language we all share in common is English. If you submit your proposal in French, Italian, Spanish, etc., it's very likely it will be ignored. 

14. How are you funded? How many projects can you support each year?

Our work has been generously funded by the Mott Foundation and by the DOEN Foundation. The amount of projects we can fund each year honestly depends on a wide range of factors; we don’t have a set amount of projects that must get funded in a certain time frame.

15. Are you hiring?

The best place to check any open vacancies is our careers page. But even if you don’t see anything there - always feel free to reach out and let us know why you should work with us.