GEM Incubation Fund: Catalyzing Research and Policy Change

The GEM Incubation Fund supports emerging research that strives to find solutions to the pressing development challenges of our time. Each year, the fund will support research proposals relevant to the changing key theme highlighted at the Harvard Center for International Development’s (CID) annual Global Empowerment Meeting (GEM) that show clear potential to advance knowledge and generate innovations in practice with direct impact in developing economies. Currently, the fund includes these programs:

  • CID Seed Funding: To support research projects ready to begin work immediately, with demonstrated buy-in from relevant researchers and practitioners. Co-sponsored by The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA) and the Harvard Data Science Initiative (HDSI), this program will support new gender and development research. Details are included below.
  • HRI Research Programming: To support the development of ambitious, multi-stakeholder collaborations from bold idea to fundable and implementable project through intensive research opportunities at Harvard Radcliffe Institute, modeled on HRI’s successful Exploratory Seminar and Accelerator Workshop programs. Read more information on these models at the Radcliffe website.
GEM Incubation Fund 2024 Funding Round

At the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we are leaving more than half the world behind according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals Report 2023. What have we learned about what works and how can we move forward in building a world where all women and girls thrive? 

At GEM24: Breaking Barriers for Women and Girls participants explored what works to advance gender equity, with a particular lens on both the challenges and opportunities emerging from developing countries and the role society needs to play. While the focus of this year’s meeting was on women and girls, we explored how shifting ideas of gender roles and identities can become enabling forces rather than inhibiting ones. In doing so, we convened trailblazers who have been at the forefront of extraordinary change and have successfully broken the barriers women and girls encounter, recognizing that many of these efforts have been decades in the making. 

The 2024 GEM Incubation Fund will give special attention to research that stems from conversations in the Incubation Rooms but welcomes research on any relevant topic. It will financially support new research which seeks to incubate solutions, recommend policy action, and develop tools to address what works to advance gender equity in developing countries.  



Thursday, May 2, 2024

RFP Opens

Friday, August 30, 2024

Proposal submission deadline

October 2024

Funding decisions announced

These grants will cover incubation and/or seed funding related to preliminary research ideas, such as conducting background research, developing collaborations, visiting field sites, and collecting preliminary data. The maximum amount for a single award is $50,000, but the average grant size is expected to be around $25,000. Smaller grants with demonstrated value for money will be more competitive. The suggested period of performance is six to twelve months.   

Faculty with PI rights at their university are eligible to apply to the GEM Incubation Fund. Preference will be given to applicants who attended GEM and to proposals that include academic and practitioner collaborations focused on advancing gender equity relevant to developing economies. This funding will support research projects ready to begin work immediately, with demonstrated buy-in from relevant researchers and practitioners.  

A portion of the funds awarded will be reserved for proposals driven by data science, broadly construed. Projects might, for example, incorporate or leverage foundational methodologies including causal inference, data systems design, deep learning, and/or modeling of structured data.

Researchers should submit their proposals through CID's Online Application Portal.  Any questions may be directed to  The application will include the following materials: 

  • Applicant information 
  • Project summary  
  • Policy problem & motivation 
  • Project contributions  
  • Research methodology & design 
  • Project viability & risks  
  • Project timeline 
  • Financial information  
  • Letter of support from recipient institution (required for external applicants only) 
  • Letters of support from any policy partners/local collaborators (optional) 

For applicants applying from outside Harvard University, please have your institution refer to the Award Under GEM Incubation Fund Agreement Template to review the terms and conditions. Please note we will not be able to accommodate significant changes to those terms.

Proposals are reviewed and scored by the GEM Incubation Fund Review Board. All board members submitting a proposal in the current funding round must recuse themselves from this review. Based on the scores and referee comments, the review board votes on the application status.  

Evaluation Criteria: 

In addition to prioritizing incubation and/or seed funding, related to preliminary research ideas, the below criteria should serve as guiding principles for research proposals.   
Academic Contribution: Does the proposed study have the potential to make a significant contribution toward advancing knowledge in the field and existing body of research? Does it seek to answer new questions or introduce novel methods, measures, or interventions? 
Policy Relevance: Does the study seek to address questions crucial to understanding pressing issues on what works to advance gender equity in developing countries? What are the likely broader implications? Is there potential for the proposed work to be scaled up by policy partners and/or others? 
Technical Design: How well does the research design proposed and/or to be developed appropriately answer the questions outlined in the proposal? 
Project Viability: What is the viability of the proposed work and anticipated risks associated with carrying it out? Are there appropriate mitigating measures in place? 

As a condition of accepting funding, each grant recipient will be required to submit a 750-1,000 word written reflection which highlights the problem your research is trying to solve and how your team is approaching it. The article should be accompanied by 3-4 high resolution photos of your work and research team. The article will be published on CID Voices and amplified on CID’s social media channels, at the discretion of CID’s communications team. This deliverable will be due at the midpoint of the project period.  Awardees will also submit a final technical and financial report due 60 days after the project’s completion.  Grantees will agree to participate in one CID activity or event as a condition of their award.  This could be a Friday Speaker Series or presenting at a future internal-to-CID meeting.

Funding will be awarded with the presumption that money will be used only for academic/research costs (e.g., RA time, survey collection, participant incentives, etc.). If the budget includes funding to cover activities such as, but not limited to, focus groups, product design, marketing, or any other direct costs that would normally be funded by a business as part of its day-to day operations, the application should explain why the implementer/firm cannot bear these costs in the budget narrative. In general, activities that would occur anyway even absent the research should not be funded, while those that should typically be covered by the firm but would not have been implemented without research should be justified. 

PIs should ensure a written agreement which safeguards the PI’s intellectual freedom to publish. This includes specifying who owns the data and ensuring that any third party’s right of review is limited to preventing the disclosure of confidential information. 

A Data Use Agreement should be in place when using administrative data provided by the company. Though it is not a requirement that the partner be named in the paper, the decision of whether to do so should be made in writing and ex ante so that it does not depend on the results. 

Support for the GEM Incubation Fund is provided by the Harvard Center for International Development (CID), The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA), and the Harvard Data Science Initiative (HDSI).

harvard center for international development logoweatherhead logo

The GEM Incubation Fund is open for proposals from research teams looking at ways to advance gender equity in developing countries.

GEM Incubation Fund 2023 Award Recipients

The seven recipients of 2023’s GEM seed funding awards represent universities in the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan, and Argentina with research projects in developing countries around the world. Research focuses on climate-related topics critical for developing economies, from climate education in Somalia to solar geoengineering in Buenos Aires.