Grants, like this Grant’s Gazelle, can be hard to get hold of. Photo by Ikiwaner/Wikimedia Commons

Updated Nov. 12, 2014: You’ll need some money to get your good ideas out of your head and into the world. To help, we put together a list of organizations that fund humanitarian engineering and technology development. Our focus is on government-issued grants, plus a few other sources. For competitions, see our periodically updated sustainable design contests and awards roundup.

Did we leave out an important grant, or do you spot a mistake? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll update periodically.

International Science and Engineering Section | National Science Foundation

The Office of International Science and Engineering usually funds basic science research, but a number of grants for humanitarian engineering and technology projects are available. Those include grants from the BREAD program (see below), the Partnerships for International Research and Education program, and region-specific research grants. Most grants will be of greatest interest to researchers and research programs, rather than implementation programs or for-profit enterprises. Grant sizes vary widely.

Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development (BREAD) Program | National Science Foundation

The BREAD program funds proof-of-concept research into new agricultural technologies and techniques in the developing world. Award sizes are around $600,000.

Development Grants Program | USAID

The DGP funds U.S. private volunteer organizations and local, indigenous NGOs. It provides awards from $100 to $2 million for development activities with an average award size of $1 million. DGP also offers significant capacity building support to those organizations.

Grand Challenges for Development | USAID

This is a planned series of competition-style grant opportunities that focus on specific development challenges. Thus far, the Grand Challenges program has provided two tiers of grants: grants of up to $250,000 for demonstrating proof-of-concept, and grants of up to $2 million for transitioning programs to scale. Although the current Grand Challenge is now closed, more Challenges are expected to be announced over the next few years.

Development Innovation Ventures Program | USAID

The Development Innovation Ventures program develops, tests and scales cost-effective development solutions. It aims to “correct market and government failures while accelerating promising solutions with a proven impact.” The program distributes grants at three levels: $100K, $1M, and $10M.

Mission Programs | USAID

USAID’s in-country mission programs offer grants for locally specific development projects, and they have an interesting amount of leeway in how they distribute their funding. One example is the USAID Global Development Alliance, which partners private and non-governmental organizations with in-country USAID missions to support development projects.

Development Marketplace | World Bank

This is a grants program that provides seed funding to test and carry out early-stage development programs. The Development Marketplace program offers two sets of grant opportunities: Global Development Marketplace competitions, which focus on a specific development issue and provide grants of up to $200,000, and Regional/Country Development Marketplace competitions, which focus on country-specific issues and offer grants of up to $50,000.

The Global Partnership for Social Accountability | World Bank

This fund supports civic engagement activities with grants of up to $1 million. Funding is limited to organizations based in developing countries and preference is given to new applicants.

Acumen Fund

The Acumen Fund is a social enterprise incubator for projects and businesses in communities with emerging economies. Typically, investments (which are loans or equity investments) range from $300,000 to $2.5 million. They are spread between projects in water, health, housing, energy and agriculture.

Grassroots Business Fund

Like the Acumen Fund, the Grassroots Business Fund is a social enterprise incubator. It invests in companies working in agribusiness, bottom-of-the-pyramid service, artisanal programs, and financial innovation. Investment sizes range from $500,000 to $1.5 million.

Invested Development

Invested Development is a small social enterprise incubator with a focus on alternative energy and mobile technology startups. Investments typically range from $100,000 to $350,000.

Google Impact Awards

Google awards grants to non-profit organizations to jumpstart technological innovation to address the world’s tough social challenges. The first round of Global Impact Awards granted $23 million to seven organizations, according to Google’s announcement in December. http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/new-global-impact-awards-program.html Google looks for technologies that demonstrate a transformational impact, test a game-changing idea, or for brilliant teams with successful track records and a “health disregard for the impossible.” The grant is a one-time offer and Google does not take proposals or applications (they seek out the recipients themselves).

The Global Integrity Innovation Fund

The fund invests up to $10,000 each in ideas that improve transparency and accountability in governments. Projects should aim to create new information or change our perspective on, or way of gaining access to, existing information. New application deadlines will be announced.

Visa Innovation Grants Program

Visa will distribute $500,000 in grants to humanitarian and development organizations for projects that improve aid money transactions. Projects should increase the speed, security, and long-term impact of aid through the adoption of electronic payments, Visa says. “Visa believes that the grant program will help foster financial inclusion in the communities [the organizations] serve, as well as strengthen the organizations’ ability to advance their missions,” the company says in a statement.

Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development

This is an opportunity for technology companies and research groups working on “citizen participation.” The Swedish, British and US governments join the Omidyar Network to provide a $45 million fund to support Web and mobile technologies that promote open government, transparency, and accountability. Application periods begin in the Spring.

Global Innovation Fund

The GIF is a UK-based grant donor that funds the development of ideas and technologies in stages, from prototype to scaling up.

Omidyar Network

The Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm that puts money behind the work of entrepreneurs with businesses that serve social good.

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund

HIF makes grants to organizations working in regions that face humanitarian challenges, helping to develop, test and share new technologies and services. HIF also makes small grants of up to £20,000 year round. See their small grant facility for information.

NERC Innovation Fund

NERC supports many kinds of technological innovations, including some with a focus on meeting needs in developing countries.

Cisco’s Global Impact Cash Grants


Cisco awards grants to non-profit and non-governmental organizations that are makig a social impact.

Julian Leland is completing a major in mechanical engineering and a minor in public policy at Swarthmore College. He became involved with E4C through his work this summer with the WISE program in public policy, which ASME supports. He is interested in machine design for the developing world and hopes to continue his studies in that field in graduate school.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Email this to someoneShare on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn0Share on Google+0

tags: , ,