Public Call: Hub for Responsible Artificial Intelligence Innovations in Agriculture and Food Systems

Deadline: 3-May-21
The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) invite expressions of interest from individual organizations, or consortia of organizations to express interest in applying for a grant to play the role of the Innovation Research Hub for an African-based research network on responsible artificial intelligence innovations in agriculture and food systems.

Specific objectives are to:

  • Deepen understanding of how to develop and scale sustainable African agriculture and food system AI innovations;
  • Build the capacity of African innovators and researchers to develop, deploy and scale such AI applications; and
  • Facilitate the contribution of African research to relevant international AI policy and practice conversations.

To achieve these objectives, the AI4D Africa program will support the implementation of an innovation research network, managed by the Hub, which will bring together (~6-10) African innovators and researchers working on or researching AI innovations that benefit agriculture and food systems through an open call.

The selected innovators and researchers will receive funding and support for a research project of at least 18 months on their innovation. It is expected that the selected projects will represent linguistic, gender, and geographic diversity across Africa; diversity across relevant areas of application of AI to agriculture justice; and diversity of relevant involved stakeholders, e.g., university researchers, start-ups, research-oriented think-tanks, consultancies, labs. The Hub will play a critical role in establishing, managing, and supporting the innovation research network.
Funding Information
AI4D Africa will allocate up to CA$1.2 million to perform the duties of the Hub.
The project can be up to 32 months in duration.
For a consortium, IDRC will enter into a funding agreement only with the lead organization.


The selected organization will also be responsible for the following non-exhaustive set of activities:

  • Supporting the competitive selection of high-quality research projects from African innovators and researchers at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence, agriculture and sustainable food systems;
  • Providing conceptual and technical support and guidance to the research network members as required such as ensuring responsible AI innovation development and deployment with a strong gender and inclusion considerations;
  • Support the exchange of knowledge and good practices between network members;
  • Building synergies and collaborate where appropriate with other AI and agriculture and food systems networks and communities; and
  • Contributing to the strategic guidance of the AI4D Africa program.

Eligibility Criteria

  • This call for expressions of interest is open to individual organizations or groups of organizations that:
  • Have their headquarters based in lower and lower-middle income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with preference given for organizations in low- and medium-income countries.
  • Have a proven record of working in Africa and supporting the design, development, and scaling of climate change and AI innovations in these contexts.
  • Internal expertise in AI and climate change mitigation or adaptation;
  • Ability to work in both English and French at a minimum. Other languages a plus.

Note: This call for expressions of interest is not open to individuals or government ministries and agencies, but it is open to public research institutes and public university centers, labs and departments. It is also open to private sector actors.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Knowledge and expertise on agriculture, food systems, AI innovations, and research (20%)
  • Demonstrated experience engaging in agricultural and food system research and innovations in Africa (expertise can be shared among different consortium members), or strong experience in one with proven track record of collaborations in the other domains;
  • Experience with machine learning or other AI applications to address pressing agriculture and food systems challenges in Africa;
  • Connections with research and policy communities relating to agriculture and food systems.
  • Knowledge and expertise in supporting research and/or innovations networks (20%)
  • Demonstrated experience running collaborative research activities and/or networks.
  • Proven ability to support and guide researchers and technologists.
  • Ability to facilitate knowledge exchange through participatory mechanisms both virtually and face-to-face.
  • Experience managing calls for proposals processes.
  • Innovation Research Network Plan (20%)
  • Logical network plan that funds and supports responsible AI for agriculture innovations
  • Approach ensures inclusion and equity of both genders and other vulnerable groups
  • High impact knowledge synthesis and sharing activities
  • Reasonable and feasible budget
  • Expertise in synthesis, learning facilitation, and knowledge mobilization (15%)
  • Ability to facilitate cross-grantee learning and synthesis.
  • Experience in designing and developing products that support knowledge sharing and use: high quality practitioner-oriented outputs, toolkits, rapid knowledge syntheses, supporting resources, and policy briefs.
  • Experience in knowledge mobilization for policy and practice improvement.
  • Organizational performance (20%) 
  • Evidence that the organization has the basic systems, resources, and management capacities to succeed in setting up and running a Pan African research network. Capacity to work in English and French (other languages would be an asset).
  • Organizational motivation (5%)
  • Evidence that the organization’s programmatic strategy, institutional mandate, and previous experience align with and are relevant to the role of the Hub.

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