Call for ideas archive 2021

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What the Lab is looking for?

For the 2021 cycle, there is a special call for the Lab’s sustainable energy access, sustainable cities and food systems streams, and the Brazil and Southern Africa programs. The Lab’s general program is also accepting ideas that address barriers to sustainable investment in developing countries across the adaptation and mitigation spectrum.

  • Climate Adaptation and Mitigation

    The Lab seeks the most transformative ideas – both mitigation and adaptation – in developing and emerging economies, including those that do not fit in the priority sectors included here.

  • Sustainable Energy Access

    Sustainable Development Goal 7 aims to ensure affordable, reliable and modern energy for all by 2030. However, more than 1.2 billion people currently live without access to reliable electricity.

    Significant investment is needed in order to close the gap, and achieve universal energy access by 2030, though CPI research has found that there are relatively few blended finance initiatives that focus on distributed and off-grid electricity generation. There is a key need to identify, develop, and scale financial solutions that enable private sector capital to flow into energy access investments, including solutions for distributed generation, off-grid, and “last-mile” grid connection, thereby creating a viable market for generating and delivering energy to the developing world.

    With additional support from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Lab is seeking proposals for innovative financial instruments to address market barriers and support the scale-up of sustainable energy access for both residential and business application.

    These sustainable finance vehicles will offer returns for investors, while reducing emissions, supporting improved livelihoods and access to education and opportunities, and reducing negative health impacts associated with carbon-intensive forms of energy production.

  • Sustainable Cities

    Cities are critical players on climate change. More than half of the global population lives in cities, which consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70 percent of global carbon emissions. And with 90 percent of the world’s urban areas situated on coastlines, cities are at high risk from climate change impacts such as sea level rise and extreme weather events.
    For this reason, cities are on the front lines of climate action, making bold commitments around climate-resilient, low-carbon development pathways. To mobilize the finance needed to bring these commitments to fruition, policy makers, the business community, philanthropic actors, and all classes of investors must work together to pilot, implement, and scale up sustainable investment models.

    With the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies and other funders, the Lab is seeking proposals for innovative financial instruments to address market barriers and support the deployment of climate solutions in cities in developing countries, including in energy efficiency, clean energy, low-carbon transport, and other sectors. Proposals may be completely new – i.e., ideas never before implemented – or may seek to adapt or replicate a previously piloted instrument in new developing country city contexts. The Lab will work closely with The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, an international alliance of nearly 10,000 cities and local governments, throughout the Lab process.

  • Sustainable Food Systems

    The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the fragility of food systems across the globe, which are already being impacted by the effects of climate change. People living in poverty, among which women are disproportionately represented, are most affected through health and livelihoods impacts.

    Food systems are significant contributors to biodiversity loss and environmental degradation, through activities throughout the entire value chain. These activities include land use practices, deforestation, food production including waste and water management, energy use, and transport. At the same time, sustainable food systems contribute to long-term solutions, for instance through ecosystem services. Moreover, agriculture is the main source of livelihood in most developing economies. It is therefore of utmost importance to improve sustainability and resilience throughout the food system.

    With support from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Lab is seeking proposals for innovative financial instruments that support sustainable food systems. Ideas should alleviate poverty, increase productivity, and address biodiversity and climate change (adaptation and/or mitigation). This includes solutions in farming, waste management and input supply, as well as interacting systems, such as energy, trade and health.

    Submissions should focus on climate-stressed regions, primarily across low and lower-middle income countries. Proposed sustainable finance vehicles should offer returns for private investors, create jobs and other local economic benefits, sustain biodiversity, improve climate resilience and/or decrease food-related emissions, while supporting a green, resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In addition to creating opportunities for private investors, successful ideas should incorporate different actors in the value chains as appropriate, e.g., producers/farmers (or their organization) buyers, distributors, and/or retailers.

What happens if your idea is selected?

If your idea is selected by Lab Members, you will work with a team of analysts, key stakeholders, and experts to:


Develop or refine the mechanics of your idea.


Survey comparable instruments, ensuring the final instrument is innovative and impactful.


Develop robust financial modeling.


Assess and document potential social and environmental impacts.


Map risks and risk mitigation strategies.


Develop a detailed implementation plan.


Produce promotional content.


Present your idea to donors and investors.


Potentially receive endorsement from the Lab.

How ideas are selected


Applicants must fill in an online form (see PDF version for reference). A set of key criteria guides how submitted ideas are assessed and ranked

  • Actionable

    The Lab looks for ideas that demonstrate: (1) the involvement of entities able to implement the idea with relevant experience; (2) a clear pathway to implementation, including a defined timeframe, key activities, and project milestones; (3) identification of potential risks to implementation and strategies for dealing with them.

  • Catalytic

    The catalytic potential is the ability of the idea to mobilize private sources of climate finance. Ideas should demonstrate: (1) the potential for scale-up of private investment in the target market; (2) the ability or potential to replicate in other markets.

  • Innovative

    Successful Lab ideas demonstrate how the idea addresses barriers to climate finance that have either not yet been addressed or will be addressed more effectively than existing approaches in the market. In essence, the Lab looks for submissions that clearly articulate how the idea submitted is a value-add to other efforts in the space.

  • Financially Sustainable

    High-quality Lab ideas will have a clear strategy for phasing out public and philanthropic financial support over time and achieving market viability on commercial terms, even if that runway is long in certain cases. They should also identify challenges and risks to attain these objectives and strategies for managing them.

  • Value Add

    The Lab seeks to offer a significant value-add to the success of the selected ideas and teams, ensuring the capabilities of the Lab team and network complement the proposing team’s capabilities and needs. We look forward to working with teams with sufficient time and a functional governance structure to participate fully in the Lab process.

Why submit an idea?

Selected ideas will receive guidance and support from high-level leaders from both the public and private sectors, who contribute expertise, political capital, and financial capital to the instruments.

Lab members

Selected ideas will also benefit from robust analysis, stress-testing, and development by Climate Policy Initiative’s team of experts.

Meet the Lab experts




value of in-kind analytical and communications support received by selected Lab ideas




mobilized by endorsed Lab instruments

Who is involved?

The Lab is composed of over 60 expert institutions in government, development finance, philanthropy, and the private sector. The full list of Lab Members can be found here. The funders for the Lab’s 2021 cycle are included below. Climate Policy Initiative serves as the Lab Secretariat.

Bloomberg Philanthropies
German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ)
Rockefeller Foundation
UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy