Three attendees of fireside chat
Fireside chat at SAIS track of SA Innovation Summit in Cape Town. Photo credit @SAIS

Excitement as SAIS prepares to announce the winners of its Innovation Fund first call

The SAIS 2 Innovation Fund recently closed its first Call for Proposals. Of 149 applications, up to 14 projects targeting three specific funding windows will be selected for implementation in the five Southern African partner countries.

20. Sep 2018


There is a buzz in the air as up to 14 successful applicants to the Southern Africa Innovation Support (SAIS 2) Programme's Innovation Fund are soon to learn whether their projects will receive funding.

SAIS 2 funds initiatives promoting early-stage entrepreneurship and understanding on what works in innovation ecosystems assisting entrepreneurs in the SADC region. In providing matching grants, the SAIS 2 Innovation Fund is the key mechanism through which the programme supports the implementation of local flagship initiatives. These are presented in the form of projects and selected on a competitive basis by a team of evaluators. 

Earlier this year, the first SAIS 2 Call for Proposals was launched and rolled out through an extensive communications campaign that included “Information Days” in five implementing countries – Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. The focus is on projects seeking to demonstrate the feasibility of concepts and/or prototypes (proof-of-concept) before introducing them to the market. SAIS funding is also available for projects looking to replicate an already established successful innovation within the SADC region.

SAIS 2 Innovation Fund information day hosted in partnership with NCRST, in Windhoek Namibia

SAIS 2 grants are targeted at innovation-support organisations assisting early-stage entrepreneurs and acting as orchestrators bringing together different role-players to design and implement joint activities in their local innovation ecosystems. 

The SAIS 2 Call for Proposals is a two-stage process. First, interested applicants submit concept notes for projects under three thematic areas, namely, (1) Developing Institutional Capacity for Regional Innovation Cooperation (Stronger Ecosystems), (2) Scaling Enterprises through Stronger Innovation Support Organisations, and (3) Inclusive Innovations for evaluation. At a second stage, only the eligible highest scoring concept notes approved by the SAIS 2 Supervisory Board (SVB) are invited to submit a full proposal. Applicants elaborate the concept note in more detail and outline the plan for the implementation of their project. The SAIS 2 SVB then approves the highest scoring projects for funding. 

Regional and International Reach

By the time the concept note stage of the call closed in May, a total of 149 concept notes from all five countries had been submitted. Of these, most of the applications targeted funding window 2 (Scaling Enterprises), which focuses on supporting early-stage entrepreneurs seeking proof-of-concept for their product, service or process before rolling it out in SADC markets. Private sector entities dominated the interest for window 2, while universities and research organisations, as well as non-governmental organisations applied to the first and third funding window (Stronger Ecosystems and Inclusive Innovations).

Successful entrepreneurs do not arise in isolation. They require an environment where cooperation and competition leads to learning and exchange of knowledge locally and globally. Thus one of the key requirements was that applications be structured in a consortia comprising partners from public, private and civil society as well as minimum from two SADC countries.

Ilari Lindy, Lead Expert for SAIS

After the eligibility screening process, 87 projects in total were shortlisted for evaluation, after which 43 were invited to submit a full proposal. Independent experts evaluated the final proposals, and the SAIS 2 SVB selected the 14 projects across the three funding windows. Successful applicants will be notified shortly. The first batch of new transregional projects is expected to kick-off in October‒November 2018. 

This news item was contributed by Nelao Haimbodi, SAIS Communications Coordinator, and Ilari Lindy, SAIS Lead Expert. For more details on SAIS, visit


Photo credit @SAIS