Royal Academy of Engineering Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2021
The Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation aims to stimulate, celebrate and reward engineering entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa.
Founded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, it is Africa’s biggest prize dedicated to engineering innovation. It awards crucial commercialisation support to ambitious African innovators developing scalable engineering solutions to local challenges, demonstrating the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development.
An eight-month period of tailored training and mentoring culminates in a showcase event where a winner is selected to receive £25,000 along with three runners-up, who are each awarded £10,000.
Who can apply for the Africa Prize?
- Applicants must be individuals or small teams.
- Individual applicants must be citizens of a country within sub-Saharan Africa. For teams of two or more, the lead applicant (the person who usually participates in most training and other activities) must be a citizen of a country within sub-Saharan Africa.
- Applicants must have an engineering innovation, though you do not need to be an engineer to apply.
- The lead applicant should be over the age of 18 at the time the applications close. There is no upper age limit.
- Industrial researchers and establishments are not eligible.
- For the purposes of the programme, the definition of sub-Saharan Africa includes all countries defined by the African Union within Central, East, Southern, and West Africa. These are: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2021 Benefits
Shortlisted applicants will receive a seven-month package of tailored support to help them achieve take their innovation to the next step in their commercialisation journey. This includes:
- Regular online group and one-on-one business and entrepreneurship training from experts, covering topics such as: business model canvas; sales and marketing; revenue models; human resourcing; access to investment; impact measurement; legal considerations for innovators.
- Mentorship from Fellows of the Academy and its network, tailored to the individual’s needs.
- Opportunities to travel to London and/or African cities for in-person trainings or events (this is dependent on the COVID-19 situation and it is likely that most training and events will be online).
- Opportunities to pitch your innovation at events attended by high-profile guests including entrepreneurs, investors, dignitaries and media (to note in Africa Prize 2021 these events may be virtual).
- Communications support, including pitching your innovations to local, national and international media.
- Networking opportunities with the Africa Prize shortlist, alumni and wider networks at events.
- Final prize of GBP £25,000 for the winner and £10,000 each for three runners-up.
- At the end of the training, the shortlist become part of the Africa Prize alumni community, which continues to receive support from the Academy through invitations to further events, small grant funding and follow-on training.
What kind of innovations does the Africa Prize accept?
Entrepreneurs with an innovation from any engineering discipline that can provide scalable solutions to local challenges, are invited to enter.
Applicants should be in the early stages of commercialising an engineering innovation that:
- Is accompanied by an ambitious but realistic business plan which has strong commercial viability
- Has strong potential to be replicated and scaled up
- Will bring social and/or environmental benefits to a country or countries in sub-Saharan Africa
The innovation must be based in, and benefit, a country in sub-Saharan Africa.
The innovation can be any new product, technology or service, based on research in any field of engineering, including: agricultural technology, biotechnology, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, design engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, materials science, mechanical engineering, and medical engineering. If you have questions about whether your innovation would be considered engineering, please contact the Africa Prize team to discuss your application.
For more information, have a look at the Africa Prize interactive tool which showcases all current and previous shortlised innovations.
We do not accept:
- Innovations that are still at idea stage.
- Innovations that do not meet the UK’s ODA guidelines, such as innovations designed for military purposes or purely for economic gain. For more information, please read the ODA guidelines.
What are the key Africa Prize dates?
- The Africa Prize opens for applications each year, usually in March.
- Due to COVID-19, applications for the Africa Prize 2021 open on 23 June.
- Applications for the Africa Prize 2021 will close on 14 September at 4pm GMT+1.
- All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by the end of December 2020.
- Africa Prize training will take place over approximately seven months, starting in December 2020 and finishing in June or July 2021.
Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation 2021 Process:
Phase one – seven months of mentoring and training for shortlisted candidates
Training and mentoring sessions will be held with all shortlisted candidates aimed at:
- Developing their technology towards successful commercialisation.
- Mentoring the candidates to ensure their innovation is viable in the marketplace.
- Strengthening their existing business plans.
- Preparing them to pitch their innovations at live events, including the final event.
- Networking with potential partners, investors and customers.
This year, these sessions will mostly be remote, although depending on the COVID situation, there might be an opportunity for in-person training towards the end of the training period.
Phase two – Selection of finalists
In May, after six months of support, the shortlisted candidates must submit a revised application, showing their progress over the last months and including a comprehensive business plan. Mentors will submit an evaluations of their mentee’s progress and of the engineering innovation’s potential. Four finalists will then be chosen by the Africa Prize judges.
Phase three – Final event
At the final event, usually held in a city in Africa in June, all the shortlist will have a chance to exhibit and network with guests. The four finalists will pitch to the audience and judging panel, and the winner will be chosen.
This year, due to COVID-19, it is likely that this event will be virtual and may take place in June or July 2021.
What is the review process for Africa Prize applications?
All applications for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation are first checked for eligibility by Academy staff. Eligible applications are sent to a pool of technical expert reviewers, who are all specialists in the field of engineering of that application. The top applications from the technical review will be sent to the Africa Prize judging panel. The judges will choose the shortlist of up to 16 applicants. Sometimes, some candidates may be contacted for further information that is required by the judges before they make their decision.
All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by the end of December 2020.
The shortlisting process will take into account:
- Adherence to all entry and eligibility requirements
- The relevance and viability of the engineering innovation
- The potential social, economic or environmental benefit of the innovation
- The extent to which the innovation can be replicated and scaled-up
- The individual, or teams’, entrepreneurial potential
How do I apply for the Africa Prize?
- All applications are submitted on the Academy’s grant management system.
- Applicants are welcome to submit more than one application per round if they have several innovations. Please do not submit multiple applications for the same innovation.
- Applicants may also submit a new application each year. We aim to give feedback to all applicants, whether they are shortlisted or not. We expect returning applicants to take the feedback into consideration when submitting a new application.