Competition >UK-India Tech Partnership (AI/Data Science in Karnataka)

Innovation Challenge Fund 2020 

Artificial Intelligence / Data Science in Karnataka: Combatting

COVID-19 and climate change



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Innovation Challenge Fund 2020

The UK Government is delighted to announce a £1.5 million fund that is now open for applications for innovative projects in Artificial Intelligence / Data Science that address the challenges of COVID 19 and/or climate change. We expect to make at least 6 awards of up to £250,000 each, to fund research and development projects by consortia of researchers and industry from India, and international partners, including the UK. The grants are for projects lasting 10 months, with a proposed start in January 2021, or soon after.
Innovation Challenge Fund 2020 will fund innovative research and development projects in Artificial Intelligence / Data Science that propose tech led or tech enabled solutions to the greatest challenges of our time: COVID 19 and climate change. This represents the UK and India’s commitment to work together to combat the pandemic and its impacts, and to ‘build back better’. The aim of the Innovation Challenge Fund is also to support the development of the Karnataka AI / Data Science Tech Cluster by promoting closer scientific collaboration between industry and academia, and by promoting links with international counterparts and centres of excellence, including in the UK. As such, proposals for research and development projects are invited from consortia made up of researchers and industry from India, and international counterparts, including the UK. Projects can either develop original ideas or adapt successful technologies, techniques or processes from other fields.

We are looking for proposals that meet the primary criteria of addressing the COVID 19 response/recovery and/or climate change/environmental protection and meet the following challenge areas:


  • Healthcare (such as projects addressing C19 diagnosis; essential equipment or medicine supply lines, infectious disease containment and sanitation, or health data collection; med-tech that can build healthcare capacity in general)
  • Environmental protection (such as projects addressing the causes and impacts of climate change, the detection of pollutant sources, waste management.) 
  • Water management (such as projects addressing waste, water sourcing and distribution in cities) 
  • Energy (such as projects addressing clean energy/renewables and carbon footprint reduction) 
  • Future mobility (i.e. solutions that can tackle the detrimental health effects caused by pollution, and answer the challenges of social distancing/containment especially in public transit in the wake of C19) 
  • Agriculture (such as predictive analytics of weather and cultivation patterns in geographies suffering the effects of climate change; food distribution systems in times of crisis)
  • Increasing Access to Information (such as solutions for the gathering, curation and sharing of data that can support approaches fight the pandemic, or climate change) 
  • Other (we will consider proposals which do not fit into the above categories provided the focus is on Artificial Intelligence / Data Science and solution supports response/recovery from COVID 19, or the climate change agenda.)


Separate applications can be made if consortia wish to submit proposals for more than one challenge area, though we recognise there may be some overlap. If your consortium is working on a project which does not quite fit into one of the above challenge areas but still centres around AI/ Data Science and the COVID 19/climate change challenge, please submit a concept note and we will consider it.

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Consortium must be composed as follows: 


  • Indian university research department or research institute or academic institute
  • Indian business (including but not limited to start-ups, scale-ups and small & medium enterprises)
  • At least one of these organisations must have a base in Karnataka



  • International business  
  • International university or research organisation



  • Indian or International non-commercial organisation


Grants will be awarded to a lead organisation, which must fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Indian organisations which are exempt from the operation of the FCRA 2010 under this Order from the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  2. Indian organisations which, at the time of the application submission, are registered and granted a certificate or have obtained prior permission under the FCRA 2010;
  3. Not-for-profit UK organisations.

The lead organisation will be responsible for the overall management of the grant including control, disbursement, and assurance of funds.

Applicants must demonstrate collaboration with other organisations. They will need to explain how their proposal facilitates the development of partnerships between researchers, industry (including but not limited to start-ups, scale-ups and small & medium enterprises), and potentially NGOs, policymakers and practitioners in India and their International counterparts.

All applicants will also need to show that their proposed idea has a credible and practical route to market. They must ensure they have considered and addressed requirements on Official Development Assistance (ODA) and gender inequality.

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Decision Making Process

This is a two-stage application process. At the first stage, applicants submitted a brief concept note. Applicants have been notified of their first stage result. Successful applicants have been invited to submit a final application. Further detail of the assessment process can be found here


Full applications will be invited for early October. There will be an initial office sift undertaken for ODA, gender equality compliance, fit to the remit and scope of the call. Eligible proposals will then be considered by a specially convened expert panel in October, who will assess the proposals against a detailed assessment criteria. The panel will make recommendations for funding to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). FCDO may wish to apply additional conditions on grants, and there may be subsequent negotiations on the details of the support offered. As part of the due diligence process, organisations will be required to work with the FCDO programme team to provide the necessary information. Please be aware that organisations will be contacted by the FCDO during the review process for further information. This is in order to expedite our assurance process. Funding decisions are expected to be announced in December 2020 and awards are expected to commence shortly after.


For further information, please consult our FAQ page.

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