Frequently Asked Questions

If your question isn’t listed below send us a note.

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

For Moonshot concepts and Innovation Pilot proposals, 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.

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.

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.

 

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

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.

What happens after I submit my proposal for funding?

Applications are being reviewed on a first come first serve basis. Following the submission of the proposal, our pre-eval team screens the proposal on key evaluation criteria and scores its scope and potential to impact the sector. The Pre-eval team will also reach out to applicants for any clarification or additional information requirement before the proposal is forwarded to the evaluation committee for a final decision. Both successful and unsuccessful applicants will be notified by email with a final decision within 2-3 weeks of EnAccess receiving the application. Any delay in the decision process due to insufficient or need for additional information will be communicated to applicants on a regular basis through email.

 

The final deliverables along with milestones for each grant funding is discussed and agreed before moving the proposal to the EnAccess Board for evaluation.

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.

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.

Can my organization submit more than one project?

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

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.

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

Our work has been generously funded by the Mott 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.

Are you hiring?

The best place to check any open vacancies is our LinkedIn 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.