How to apply

Demonstrating the power of big data analytics through inspiring and innovative projects


An Inspire Challenge grant process for 2021 has not yet been determined.

Why the challenge

Data is much more than simply information: in expert hands, it is intelligence.

The CGIAR Platform for Big Data in Agriculture serves to provide leadership in organizing open data, convening partners, and demonstrating the power of big data analytics through inspiring projects.

The Inspire Challenge was launched in 2017 as 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.

We are challenging partners, universities, and others to use CGIAR data to create innovative pilot projects that will scale.



Find your partner using the partnership matching form (CURRENTLY CLOSED). More details below.


Fill out the application form (CURRENTLY CLOSED) with your partnership details. 

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.

start-up grant

12 months
to implement pilot

scale-up grant to selected projects

start-up grant

12 months
to implement pilot

scale-up grant to selected projects



Combines multiple data sources and adds value to them through data fusion or analysis, mobilizing underused or misused data – especially CGIAR data.


The project has potential to serve the needs of a growing user base and the interface is well designed and specific to the problem, with the data, procedure for use, and code base well documented.


Enhances stakeholder ability to make decisions problem statement, rationale, process and outputs of the product clearly support decision making affecting the farm level.


Narrative clearly indicates hardware, software, human resources required to install/maintain/run the product, and good documentation is provided.


Proposal is a real game changer with the potential to transform food systems. It is not basic research nor solely targeted towards sustaining ongoing research.


Pitch and demonstration is compelling, well organised, and clearly illustrates the relationship of the problem to the proposed solution.

Do you qualify?

We are looking for novel approaches that democratize data-driven insights to inform local, national, regional, and global policies and applications in agriculture and food security in real time; helping people–especially smallholder farmers and producers–to lead happier and healthier lives.


Eligibility: Partner up!

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.

Please use this simple partnership matching form.

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.


selection criteria & challenge categories

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.

We 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.

Applications must fall in one of the following Challenge categories:


Revealing Food Systems

Measuring & Building Resilience

Sustaining Farm Income

Sensing & Renewing Ecosystems


Evaluation & judging process

We’re looking for big ideas, but recognize that big risks do not always work out. This is why we will be measuring the impact of the approaches developed and systematically learning from successes as well as failures; documenting along the way to help drive future investments in big data-related agricultural innovations.

Lessons learned will be documented and published, alongside policy briefs and best practice guidelines, which will be shared with our network to improve the next generation of big data in agriculture research.

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

This pre-assessment focuses on three key aspects:


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.

Data mobilization of underused or misused data

Especially mobilizing CGIAR data.

While the use of CGIAR data streams is encouraged, all forms of CGIAR + outside organization collaboration demonstrating leading-edge uses of data are applicable for this prize.
Finalists of this pre-assessment will be notified and invited to present their proposals to a panel of judges and their peers at the Platform for Big Data in Agriculture Convention in Lima, Peru from October 21-23, 2020. The judging panel will be comprised of leading sector experts from public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Need more information?

Watch our Inspire Challenge Q&A Webinar

Read the 2017 Inspire Challenge paper