UNCDF, in collaboration with UNESCAP, has launched an Innovation Fund on digital solutions for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in Asia-Pacific.
The Innovation Fund seeks to co-fund companies to pilot innovative digital and financial solutions that improve access to finance and/or enhance operational efficiency of women-led MSMEs.
The Innovation Fund is targeted at solutions that are ready for pilot testing and will provide US $25,000 to US$ 50,000 of co-funding for selected projects. Selected applicants will be expected to fund at least 30% of the total project cost. UNCDF will provide successful applicants with:
- Technical assistance (development and design)
- Connection with investors
- Early-stage grant
If the pilot is successful, it may also be possible to gain additional grants or financing from UNCDF or partners for project scale-up.
The grant fund will be based on agreed milestones and provided as reimbursement for project costs incurred. The payment schedule will be as follows:
- 80% subject to completion of interim milestones.
- 20% final payment subject to completion of final milestones.
Eligible applicants who can apply for the Innovation Fund include (but not restricted to): regulated Financial Institutions (Banks, MFIs, Insurance companies); Payment Service Providers; Agent Banking Aggregators; Mobile Network Operators; Technology Providers; FMCG/Agriculture Companies; FinTech Companies; and NGOs.
Companies with an innovative solution that will lead to increased access to finance for MSMEs, in particular women-owned, managed or led MSMEs – and which is ready for pilot testing in one or more of the target countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Samoa, and Viet Nam).
The applicant can be based anywhere globally, but the project must target women-owned, managed or led MSMEs in one or more of the target countries.
Joint proposals between market players in the target country/ies (for example, financial service provider, FinTech company and telecom provider) that expand delivery networks and promote rural/last-mile access to MSME finance are encouraged to apply.
If the digital solution/product is a financial solution/product which requires piloting with a regulated financial institution and requires regulatory approval before piloting, the applicant must partner with a regulated financial service provider in the target country/ies for delivery of the innovative solution.
Either the applicant or their financial service provider partner must be a registered entity with at least one year of operations and statutory accounts.
The applicant must have an existing solution that is ready to undergo pilot testing for a duration of 9 to 12 months.
Applicants will be invited to complete an online application form outlining how the project will improve access to finance and/or enhance operational efficiency for women-led MSMEs in one or more of the target countries, and presenting the full implementation and technical details of the proposed pilot testing. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to deliver a presentation to an Investment Committee.
The Investment Committee will score the proposals according to:
The innovativeness of the proposed solution
The additionality of the project (e.g. enabling new or innovative approaches to be piloted that would not normally be financed through commercial financing routes)
The practicality of implementation
The sustainability of the proposed solution
The potential impact of the solution on MSMEs in general and women-owned, managed or led MSMEs in particular.
The scalability potential of the proposed solution
The experience of the applicant in the proposed field
The Investment Committee may also consider additional factors when scoring the proposals.
Illustration Photo: Cashless payment in Indonesia (credits: Yosomono / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))