Frequently asked questions

Note: Last updated October 2021.

General questions:

Which firms are considered to be SGBs?

For purposes of this research initiative, SGBs are defined as commercially viable businesses with five to 250 employees that have significant potential and ambition for growth. They are more than livelihood-sustaining small businesses but, unlike many medium-sized firms, frequently lack access to the financial and knowledge resources required for growth. They typically seek growth capital from $20,000 to $2 million.

What are the SGB Evidence Fund focus areas for the April 2021 call? Can we submit a proposal for research outside these topics?

We are particularly interested in projects that focus on the effectiveness of business accelerators and incubators. The proposals should aid in our understanding of if and how accelerators/incubators lead to higher survival rates or faster growth of SGBs, and identify which components of the bundle of services offered by accelerators/incubators are most important in generating positive outcomes.

There will also be priority given to proposals that examine issues around gender and SGBs (for example, gaps in financing between male and female entrepreneurs), and in particular proposals on this topic from researchers affiliated with institutions in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Although, the above are priority areas for this call, we still welcome proposals on any topic related to growth and productivity of SGBs in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

What is the definition of a ‘practitioner’?

For the purposes of the fund, a practitioner is any organisation that implements interventions to support small and growing businesses. These interventions can be direct (e.g. technical assistance, financing, etc.) or indirect (e.g. platforms to connect businesses with investors or labor), but they must include active support for an identifiable set of businesses; for example, setting national policies or making information generally available would not be counted as interventions. Practitioners can be non-profit, for-profit, or government entities. However, for practitioners to be considered for participation in projects supported by the fund, the intervention being tested must be integrated into the practitioner’s core set of services and the practitioner must be in a position to continue or scale the intervention beyond the research period.

What type of research would be considered for the proposal?

We welcome applications that consist of rigorous evaluations with credible counterfactuals. The proposals should clearly articulate how causal identification will be determined. The IGC will not fund projects that are a) purely descriptive, b) not grounded in sound economics research principles.

Do we need prior engagement with the respective IGC country team and stakeholders?

Prior engagement between the researcher and practitioner partner is required. If practitioners have difficulty finding researchers to work jointly on the proposal, please reach out to IGC and, if possible, we will facilitate a connection with relevant researchers. Prior engagement with the respective IGC country team and other stakeholders is not a requirement, but the proposal is more likely to be successful if it also responds to policy demands in the country selected.

We are applying for other sources of funding, or have already received other funds. Is it still possible to apply?

Yes. We encourage applicants to indicate budget priorities in their proposals. In the event that the SGB Evidence Fund is unable to fund the entire project; it will then be easier to identify which modules are essential. Applicants who have secured or aim to secure other funding are also welcome to apply for only partial funding for their project from the SGB Evidence Fund. In this scenario, applicants should make clear what proportion of overall funding for the project is being requested from this fund in particular, and which proposed milestones will trigger SGB Evidence Fund payments.

Do you fund researchers who are not engaged at top universities or who are not local (where applicable) to the country of research focus?

Yes, the SGB Evidence Fund gives equal opportunity to researchers from all over the world, and proposals are assessed on quality and the evaluation criteria outlined in this document.

Do you accept proposals directly from individuals?

Yes, but with individually managed projects, expenses are only reimbursed in arrears, with original receipts. This means that some expenses—such as flights, hotels, survey costs, etc.—will need to be fronted by researchers. Wherever feasible, the IGC strongly recommends contracting through institutions. In particular, individual contracts with significant data collection expenses should be avoided, due to the heavy reconciliation burden this creates on the IGC finance team.

Can a single institution submit multiple proposals?

Yes

Can a single researcher be included in multiple proposals?

Yes

Does the IGC provide technical support and/or preliminary feedback when writing the proposal?

No

Can a research assistant be hired?

It is typical for researchers to hire their own research assistants (RAs) for these projects. For institutionally managed projects, these RAs are contracted by the managing institution. For individually managed projects, these RAs are contracted by the IGC.

Can I submit a project that is led by the researcher(s)?

No, equal collaboration between the practitioner and researcher is essential for the SGB Evidence Fund. There must be a pathway to the sustainability of the project proposed. The proposal should elaborate how (if the research indicates that the intervention/project is successful) the project will become part of the practitioners’ regular programming.

Can I submit a project where the research is done by the practitioner organisation?

While we are technically open to projects in which the researcher is affiliated with the practitioner organisation, the fund is really designed for partnerships between researchers and practitioners rather than “in-house” research. So this could potentially work, but only if the research proposed meets three criteria:

  • Academic quality and publication: The research must be of academic quality and either published, or of the rigour necessary to publish, in an academic journal, rather than just as a practitioner report.
  • Public good: The research must be designed for and result in outputs that are for the overall sector, not just an internal report for the practitioner.
  • Independence: Given the type of research we intend to support, there must be clear structures and systems in place to ensure that any researcher affiliated with the practitioner is conducting the research in an independent way (“arms-length”) to ensure the results are not affected by the nature of the researcher’s position.

Please note that the bar for this is high and all of the grants so far have gone to partnerships between academic researchers and practitioners.

Budgetary questions:

In which currency is the award made?

The award is made in Euros.

Can the costs of inflation and/or depreciation be taken into account for billing purposes?

No, inflation and depreciation risks must be borne by the applicants whose projects are approved.

Is a detailed budget required at this stage?

Applicants should provide detailed information on the project budget (fees, expenses, and overhead). Please bear in mind that ‘value for money’ is one of the main evaluation criteria.

What proportion of the budget can cover institutional overheads (indirect costs)?

Please note that only institutions can apply for overhead, which is capped at a maximum of 15% of the total direct costs specific to the project. We define an institution as an organisation occupying a physical space where it is located, and that actively incurs costs (such as rent and services) which are consistent with overhead costs.

Overheads typically cover the institution’s IT infrastructure, insurance costs, electricity, etc.

Does the SGB Evidence Fund allow remuneration for Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators?

Proposals can include Principal Investigator remuneration where this is not covered from other sources or institutions. However, the SGB Evidence Fund is committed to ensuring value for money and in order to adhere to our value for money guidelines as stipulated by our funders, we typically do not approve over 22 days of fees per PI/Co-PI, per project.

All fee rates must comply with the guidance and figures set out in the SGB Evidence Fund pay matrix (see Annex 2 of the SGB Evidence Fund Guidelines for applicants).

Do you fund business class travel?

No, the SGB Evidence Fund is not able to fund business class travel.

Do you pay per diems?

No, the SGB Evidence Fund is unable to pay per diems. It does, however, fund expenses if they have been budgeted for in the proposal, and only if original receipts are presented. Please refer to the Travel Policy in annex 4 for further details.

Are there any budgetary limitations on proposals?

We do not anticipate making awards more than €150,000. We anticipate most projects would be well below this amount as Value for Money is an important criteria. We also welcome projects that are also co-funded through other institutions.