Evidence for Innovation: Projects announcement
Seven teams in Africa and two in Asia will receive funding to generate new evidence on the performance and distributional impacts of innovation support programs for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
The Evidence for Innovation (E4I) open competition received 71 proposals for its two funding streams. One stream provided 12-month development grants with an opportunity to submit a full research proposal, while a second stream supported fully developed research projects with budgets up to CAD500, 000 each over three years.
Governments have long supported innovation support programs (ISPs) to promote the development and growth of SMEs, owing to this sector’s important contribution to job creation and the economy. ISPs vary considerably in their design, but common features include access to business development services, concessional loans or grants, and/or new technology. As governments and business leaders embrace inclusive innovation, many ISPs are advancing stronger social development goals by channeling support to youth- and women-led enterprises.
Whether and how these forms of support for the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector can support equity, diversity and inclusion in addition to the anticipated economic impacts is an important public policy question that needs to be answered. Especially in low-income settings, scarce evidence exists on whether current programs are effective in stimulating firm innovation — and what might be done to strengthen their impact.
Employing experimental and quasi-experimental research methods, the research teams will analyse the impacts of ISPs in collaboration with innovation agency sponsors. In support of their collaboration, Albert Halwampa, the Director General of the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) stated, “The agency firmly believes that the effective design of MSME interventions should be evidence-backed and data-driven. This is why ZDA is partnering with the Southern African Institute for Research and Policy Analysis to rigorously analyze the impacts of SME innovation support programs in Zambia.”
Through this and other collaborations, the E4I program seeks to strengthen capacity for analysis as well as improve the design and economic and social outcomes of innovation policies.
IDRC acknowledges the important contributions that the international peer review committee, the UN Technology Bank and the World Bank’s Development Impact Evaluation department have made to the development of this program.