About the Organization:

CGIAR is uniquely positioned to be a thought leader on the use of big data and information technology in agriculture to drive equitable rural development. The ultimate goal of the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture is to harness the capabilities of big data to accelerate and enhance the impact of international agricultural research. This 5-year platform (2017 – 2021) will provide global leadership in organizing open data, convening partners to develop innovative ideas, and demonstrating the power of big data analytics through inspiring projects.

Inspire Challenge 2020

Global agriculture is increasingly driven by data. Advances in computing power, data storage, and data communications over the last 30 years have given rise to powerful tools for helping make farming and food systems more precise, profitable, and adaptive. Newer digital innovations — including machine learning, the expansion of connected sensor technologies, and robotics — promise more dramatic changes in the farming landscape in the near future.

The Inspire Challenge is CGIAR’s signature digital innovation process. It leverages the global footprint and deep food security subject matter expertise of CGIAR with expert industry partners to link digital technologies to impact in developing economies.

The Challenge:

  • Bridges the deep subject matter expertise of CGIAR researchers with the capabilities of external partners
  • Challenges research organizations to partner with industry in order to leverage public good data
  • Robust, established application and review process evaluated on the following: Scale, Innovation, Impact, Pitch Quality, Data Use, Sustainability

Digital Innovation and COVID-19

The current crisis provides an opportunity to test a key part of our theory of change: that data and digital tools bring critical capabilities for agile adaptation in food systems.

Two new categories, co-designed with funders, for 2020 are directly relevant to the current crisis:

  • Sustaining Farm Income will link sustainable practices in food systems directly back to farm income. It provides a mechanism for digital innovations for (re)building resilient, inclusive agricultural value chains at a time that will be important for COVID-19 recovery.
  • Measuring and Building Resilience will leverage the vast amount of data and applied research methods to understand and operationalize resilience in target food systems.

The Inspire Challenge first-stage grants process will run mostly as planned, but targeting specific response, recovery, and resilience metrics added to the judging rubric in all challenge categories.

The two other Inspire Challenge categories also hold great potential for targeting digital innovation towards response, recovery, and resilience related to the food security challenges unfolding from the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Sensing and Renewing Ecosystems links ecosystem services to long-term resilience of food systems (which could include, for example, managing future risk of zoonotic disease).
  • Revealing Food Systems sources and implements novel, high-frequency methods for tracing and understanding food flows (an important capability for monitoring and predicting emergent food security shocks before they become acute).

As a result, the 2020 Inspire Challenge startup grant evaluation will include specific COVID-19 response, recovery, and resilience metrics added to the judging rubric.


  • All teams participating must be comprised of a variety of actors to ensure a diversity of thought and perspectives. To encourage long-term adoption and easy access to our data, they must include a CGIAR center and be embedded within a CGIAR Research Program, and include a non-CGIAR entity of any type.
  • Upon submitting your request, you will periodically receive the profiles of potential partners who match with your profile, candidates can reach out to each other to see if there is mutual interest. Applicants are responsible for their own follow-ups. If you already have a partner and an idea you are excited to put forward for the 2020 Inspire Challenge, this form is not a necessary step in the application process.
  • Once Challengers have formed their collaborative team by aligning with a CGIAR partner, they can submit their application.

Why Apply?

  • Winning teams will receive $100,000 to put their ideas into practice.
  • Teams will have 12 months to implement small-scale proof of concept pilots to demonstrate viability.
  • Successful pilots will be placed on the trajectory to wider-scale implementation, including the possibility of receiving an additional $250,000 of scale-up funding. Successful pilots will also have additional help in finding continued funding and widespread adoption within CGIAR, to ensure that these innovations become a part of how we operate system-wide.

Selection Criteria  

  • Inspire Challenges are about solving big problems using next-generation ideas. We’re looking for bold, novel ideas that leverage the expansion of big data and digital technologies to unlock new scientific discoveries or enhance the agriculture development enterprise.
  • They want innovative ideas with promising potential for social impact that use open data to solve development problems faster, cheaper and with greater efficiency.
  • Proposals for funding basic research (where the path to positive impacts is still unclear) or targeted towards sustaining ongoing research, will probably be considered unresponsive to the Challenge.

Challenge Categories

Applications must fall in one of the following Challenge categories:

  • Revealing Food Systems
  • Measuring & Building Resilience
  • Sustaining Farm Income
  • Sensing & Renewing Ecosystems

Important dates:

  • Partner Search closes: 1 August
  • Inspire Challenge closes: 15 August

For more information please check the Link

Name of the Organisation
CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture
Grant Amount
USD 2,50,000
Closing date of Proposal
Saturday, 15 August, 2020
RFP Email
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