2019 Inspire Challenge Q&A webinar: Key takeaways

This year the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture will award up to 1 million USD in grants to two categories of Inspire Challenge winners. We hosted a Q&A to address potential applicants’ questions. Here are the takeaways.

The deadline to participate in the 2019 Inspire Challenge is soon approaching.

During past applications processes we have found that, while there is a lot that can be learned about the process and previous awards on the website, applications were still missing some important information preventing them from progressing to the final judging process.

To help applicants make the right start, we hosted an online Q&A session to directly interact with potential applicants and answer their questions. You can also access the slides on SlideShare.


In case you missed the webinar, we’ve summarised the key topics and questions asked below:

About the Inspire Challenge

The Inspire Challenge is an initiative that challenges research organizations to partner with industry in order to leverage public good data–especially CGIAR data–to solve intractable challenges at scale. It is committed to helping digital innovations find a foothold and a path to scale in the agriculture sector.

Challenge Categories for 2019

For further information see the FAQ page.


Meaningful Partnership

Leveraging partners’ capabilities to create something more than the sum of its parts

  • Highlight what the partnership brings to CGIAR
  • First point of assessment – proposals without meaningful partnership will not proceed to the next round
  • Seek partners with proven, verifiable track records of successes
  • Be open and creative to connect with unconventional partners

Q & A

What is meant by ‘meaningful collaboration’?
Meaningful collaboration is substantial and meaningful. It’s not just using a dataset or technology or having soft partnership. It is pulling together separate entities to something that is greater than the individual organizations or teams etc. You need to be able to clearly answer what each is bringing to the project and be sure you have this clearly communicated for the judges.
Could you provide more details about the budget split policy between CGIAR and non-CGIAR partners?

There’s no hard and fast rule. It has to be a mutually agreed-upon allocation by both partners.
What about partners who already have some seed money. Can we mention that in our proposal?
Sure. A developed solution is fine so long as there is something new formed through the collaboration.
Does the CGIAR partnership have to be with a center or program or can it be with an individual person working in the CGIAR?
The CGIAR partner could be one individual as long as their research area aligns with one of CGIAR’s research themes.
What if I identified a partner already? Should I fill the partner search form still?
It is not necessary if you already have a project partner.
Can a proposal have more than two partners external to CGIAR?
You can have as many as you want. There is a section on the application form to add additional partners.



How new or groundbreaking the idea is to the topic

  • Identify opportunities not overlapping (or competing) with existing CRP portfolio and ongoing partnerships.
  • Check to see if similar ideas have been already piloted/used in the past. Judges will know! Justify how your approach will be different.
  • Strategize for testing hypotheses, assessing impacts, and building potential business cases.


Is there any specific target groups that the judge will focus on this year?
We want to see impact pathways to farmers.


Data, data, data

The enhanced utility of underused data from multiple sources, especially CGIAR data

  • Be (big) data-driven.
  • Incorporate existing data and their value-additions.
  • Be sensitive on the “responsible data management”
  • Highlight a F.A.I.R dataset as an output and its usefulness to others at CGIAR and partners.


Should the data that’s used be solely from CGIAR, or is a combination of different data sources accepted? For example, using satellite and CGIAR for the grant?
It doesn’t have to only be 100% CGIAR data, though it is looked upon favorably. We want to see INNOVATIVE used of data (for example, underused or obscure data). We love to see different types of data linked together on a project.


Judging Process

Get ready already!

  • Application deadline is 17 June.
  • Pre-assessment against judging criteria. Shortlist of 10 – 15 pilot project proposals will go to the final round.
  • Shortlisted teams will present their project to judges at the 2019 Convention, October 16-18, Hyderabad, India.
  • Teams will also be expected to participate in the Innovation Marketplace where they will have the opportunity to set up a project booth to showcase their project to judges, peer researchers, donors, public sector partners, private sector industry leaders, farmers, and other event attendees.
  • Winners will be announced on the last night during the Award Ceremony.


When will the applicants find out if they have moved on to the next round?
Applicants will be informed by the end of July – early August (latest).
Who will cover the cost of travel to Hyderabad for the shortlisted proponents?
The Platform will cover the cost directly for one individual from each team.

Final Remarks & Misc Questions

  • Might not for a typical research project. You’ll need to *make* something. Blend research and scientific approaches, but do not make it as a pure research project.
  • You pitch will be *questioned* by peer researchers, donors, public sector partners, private sector industry leaders, and farmers. May not be suitable for all researchers.
  • Be responsive to the requirements and expectations. Do not recycle research proposals!
  • You have a chance to defend, but do your homework and be ready. Judges will know if a similar approach has been piloted and worked/failed.


Can we access examples of proposals from prior years to better understand proposal formats/guidelines?
On the website you can find winning proposals from both 2017 and 2018.
Do you give any feedback about why an application was not successful?
Because of the volume of applications, the Platform cannot provide detailed feedback for each application. Reviewing previous winners and our 2017 Inspire Challenge Summary Brief will serve as valuable points of reference and provide insight.
How can an applicant submit an image as part of their proposal?
No image to be submitted on the application form. There will be an opportunity to use visual aids during the finalist pitch process and at the Innovation Marketplace.
What is the policy regarding indirect costs CG centers and non-CG partners can charge on this grant?
As a CGIAR project there is no restriction. Unless the cost is being charged back to the BIG DATA Platform. Extended answer in webinar.

June 5, 2019

Marianne McDade

Communications Coordinator
CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture
Cali, Colombia


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