Inspire Challenge FAQ's


How do I apply?
The online application is open and you can apply here. Remember that the application process requires a partnership with that comprises of CGIAR and non-CGIAR partners. These can be of any type: public, private, non-profit, community-based organization, etc.. You can fill out the partner matching form here (link closed on June 3).

Can I apply for more than one challenge?
Yes. We encourage all well thought-out applications.

Do we have to apply in conjunction with a CGIAR center?
Yes. Proposals must align with at least one CGIAR Research Program and teams will be comprised of CGIAR and non-CGIAR partners.

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.

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.


The form says that proposals must have two partners. Why is that?
The Inspire Challenge is intended to spark new partnerships between the CGIAR network and others in the wider research, business, or data ecosystems.

I don’t yet have a partner, can CGIAR help with that?
Yes. We have updated the process this year to facilitate a more streamlined approach to the partnership process, allowing potential partners to connect more easily via this online form (ONLINE FORM CLOSED 3 JUNE).

Once you submit 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 2019 Inspire Challenge, this form is not a necessary step in the application process.

How can we show a strong partnership on our application that demonstrates 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.

  • Listing the names and email addresses of those from the organizations working on the proposals – both CGIAR and non-CGIAR
  • Outlining how each of the partners involved will divide up the work
  • Indicating how funds will be allocated amongst the partners

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 will judging work?

  • The Inspire Challenge management team will make a preliminary ranking of the proposals of how well they meet three eligibility criteria (use of data, meaningful collaboration, and innovation) and will select up to 12 finalists to send to a judging panel.
  • Judges have been selected from prestigious organizations familiar with the work of CGIAR.
  • Judges will evaluate submissions against a scorecard to make a preliminary ranking and select finalists.
  • One of the panel judges will be a gender and ICT specialist.
  • At least one member of each finalist team must represent their proposal at the Big Data in Agriculture Convention. They will present their idea briefly in a plenary session on the first day, and then have two days to interact with each other, subject matter experts, potential partners, the judges, and more at the Convention.
  • Finalists are encouraged to have some representation of their submissions, such as a mock-up, prototype, or presentation they can show to Convention attendees during an open “bazaar” on the second day. This is a chance to build new partnerships or gain new feedback or insights into their idea.
  • In a plenary session on the final day of the Convention, finalists will make their final presentation of their idea and have brief Q&A with the judges. Judges will then finalize their rankings and awardees will be announced later that day.

How will the grant award process work?
The CGIAR center on the winning application will be transferred funds for implementation. It is up to them to subsequently coordinate spending with their non-CGIAR partner(s).

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

Will there be awards for each category?
Submissions across all categories will be evaluated together.

Can a proposal cover more than one category?
Submissions must target one category.

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.

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 will the evaluation process work?
We aim to keep evaluation and reporting substantive but not onerous. Collaboratively the awardees and the Big Data Secretariat will select indicators that will help us understand impact and contribute to the learning agenda.

Can we seek technical support during our project implementation?
The Big Data Secretariat would be happy to collaborate with Inspire Challenge awardees on the path to implementation. This support can take the form of:

  • Pointing awardees to similar efforts or specialized expertise
  • Any technical input that may be requested.

Who owns the data?

All data outputs must be open and shareable. However, any pre-existing intellectual property used during the Inspire Challenge process will be respected.

Can you tell me more about the Challenge criteria?
Applications will be reviewed in two rounds; a preliminary assessment and a judging panel.

The preliminary assessment will be managed by the Inspire Challenge management team for their responsiveness to the eligibility criteria of the Challenge.

This pre-assessment focuses on three key categories:

  • Meaningful collaboration – leveraging partners’ capabilities to create something more than the sum of its parts
  • Innovativeness of the proposal – how new or groundbreaking the idea is
  • Mobilization of underused or misused data – especially CGIAR data

Wait, do we actually have to present at the CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Convention to present our proposal?

Yes.  The Convention is an opportunity to interact with other teams and subject matter experts to improve the proposal and/or spark new collaborations that will make it more actionable.  As a result, all teams are required to have at least one member present at the Convention (October 16-18, Hyderabad, India) to represent their proposal.

What about visas for that?
India visa requirements vary depending on nationality.  Participants needing visa assistance are encouraged to submit their proposals as soon as possible. Please see here for more information about applying for a visa for India.

What travel arrangements will the host center, ICRISAT, make to keep us safe while in India?
ICRISAT will organize group hotel accommodation as well as shuttle transportation for participants. Those concerned about safety should check with their country’s embassy.

I can’t afford to travel to the convention, but would still like to attend.
Travel grants are available to a very limited number of partners from developing countries, and those who are competing for Inspire Challenge Grants will be prioritized.  If you need support, please submit a short letter requesting travel support, outlining your motives to take part and your point of origin. Include full name, passport number, passport issue and expiry date. Send the letter to

Still wanting more information?

If you have any further unanswered questions, you can contact us at