Renewable Energy

Innovation Fund

At a glance:

  1. The Innovation Fund is an AECF initiative aimed at surfacing innovations in clean cooking and productive use of energy technologies and services.
  2. Businesses applying for the fund should submit and validate their state of market readiness for emerging innovations.
  3. The program builds on AECF’s vision to support the private sector and expand its clean energy technologies to Africa’s rural communities.

About the Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund is a component of the AECF’s Renewable Energy and Adaptation to Climate Technologies Sub-Saharan Africa Programme (REACT SSA) a US$61 million project funded by Sida.

The programme seeks to reduce poverty through a transformational increase in the use of renewable energy by off-grid households in sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on innovations originating out of Western and Southern Africa.

Through the Innovation Fund, AECF aims to support businesses and entrepreneurs to validate market fit and potential of innovations in technological products, software, business models and distribution models that contribute to increasing access to clean cooking solutions and productive use energy for people living in rural areas and particularly for the poor.


  1. To commercialise innovative products or business models that are sufficiently developed to address the affordability and accessibility of clean cooking and productive use of energy technologies, across all SSA.
  2.  Provide an integrated set of business development services to accelerate business growth while improving the rigour and accessibility of the innovation.

Focus Regions

Sub-Saharan Africa, with focus on Western and Southern Africa.

Focus countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Innovations Supported

The fund will support the testing of new innovations or extreme iterations to existing innovations to validate market fit and potential including:

  • Scalable supply chain models for providing clean cooking solutions (especially in rural areas). Acknowledging that supply chains for cleaner fuels lack the necessary scale to reach many rural communities, the fund seeks to support supply chain innovations that can for example address demand uncertainty by matching demand and supply.
  • Alternative clean cooking technologies (stoves and fuels) including mini-grid and solar PV powered electric cooking.
  • Business models and technological innovations for Productive Use of Energy (PUE) appliances such as milling, threshing, grating, specific value chains (poultry, dairy, and coffee) and commercial scale refrigeration.
  • Solutions that narrow the energy access affordability gap for clean cooking and productive use for example sustainable consumer financing models that could bring Tier 3 appliances and above within reach of a larger share of the population.
  • Innovations that can be seamlessly incorporated into prevailing or growing business and distribution models (such as PayGo and 'tool and fuel' business models) are encouraged.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. The applicant needs to have a minimum viable product/service (i.e. a product/service that has already gone through a prototyping phase).
  2. The applicant must have undertaken market research demonstrating the need for the innovation in the selected geography.
  3. It is desirable for the applicant to demonstrate sales and/or a tangible demand of the proposed innovation.
  4. Please note, our investments are not intended to support any technology/innovation development.

Eligible Applicants

Only private companies with a direct interest in commercialising the innovation being tested can be eligible lead applicants, however applicants are free to partner with non-private sector players for the implementation of their projects. The innovation fund seeks to support targeted, output-based activities that can be completed within 24 months.

Funding and Co-financing

Between US$100,000-US$200,000 per company and up to $300,000 for exceptional innovations.

The co-financing requirement is a minimum of 30% of the project cost (the innovation fund will only cover up to 70% of the total project cost). In-kind contributions are acceptable.

Award Criteria

  1. Potential of the innovation to provide access to modern energy services to hundreds of thousands of people in the long run, or significantly improve the operational efficiency of the target businesses.
  2. In depth knowledge of the problem(s) being addressed by the innovation and what approaches are likely to work in the given context.
  3. A good understanding of their target customer.
  4. Potential to create socio-economic and environmental benefits including but not limited to addressing gender inequality and social inclusion issues.
  5. Commitment to drive the innovation i.e., through team structures with clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and time commitments.
  6. An openness and flexibility to review and revise their strategy as required.

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