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The Bilateral Ethiopian Netherlands Effort for Food, Income and Trade Partnership (BENEFIT) aims to improve sustainable food, income and trade among rural households in Ethiopia. BENEFIT unites four projects under its supportive Coordination Unit. The Ethiopian-Netherlands Trade Facility for Agribusiness (ENTAG), which supports private sector development and trade in Ethiopia, is one of these projects. The Innovation Fund is at the forefront of the activities of ENTAG.

The objective of the Innovation Fund is to promote innovations in various agricultural sub-sectors in Ethiopia that benefit smallholder farmers. The Innovation Fund will provide matching grant funding for innovative projects, with a maximum grant contribution of €25,000. Projects are considered innovative when they introduce new or improved products, services, technology, business models and/or service delivery model to the country. Projects that take place in the poultry, aquaculture, legumes, spices, sesame, potato and dairy subsectors are eligible for co-funding, as well as projects targeting agri-processing, agri-logistics and agricultural financing in any agricultural sub-sector.

The Innovation Fund will be operational from September 2016 to December 2019, with a maximum grant budget of € 0.8 million. Up-scaling of successful innovations will be achieved by stimulating other companies to replicate these innovations. Hereto, ENTAG will draft Innovation Opportunity reports that describe each successful innovation. The Innovation Opportunity reports will be published, and actively promoted during company visits and platform meetings.

The applicant should be a recognized Ethiopian company that is able to present business its Ethiopian business license. Partnerships of multiple companies, NGOs, research institutions, etc. are allowed to submit an application, as long as this partnership consists of at least one recognized Ethiopian company that is the formal applicant for the grant. The applicant is required to make matching cash and in-kind contributions. At least 20 per cent of the contribution is to be made in cash. Applicants won’t receive grants for more than one project at a time. Companies have to successfully implement a project, before applying for another grant. Companies can only re-apply rejected concept notes and proposals once.

A two-stage submission process will be employed to reduce transaction costs for ENTAG and applicants. Applicants first submit a brief concept note. Applicants of promising concept notes will be invited to submit full proposals for formal evaluation. Concept notes are screened by the Innovation Fund Manager against the minimum criteria, and are endorsed by the Project Manager. The Review Panel will evaluate the proposals on technical approach, economic viability, implementation capacity, value for money, additionality and impact, and advises the Approval Committee to either (a) approve the proposal, (b) approve the proposal with amendments to approach and/or budget, or (c) reject the proposal. The Approval Committee is end-responsible for project approval or disapproval, based on advice of the Review Panel and project proposal.