Shaping the future: Our strategy for research and innovation in humanitarian response.

HIF Support Application guidance
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Application guidance

Application guidance

Last updated 01/08/2022


We require all applications to be made via our online platform in response to a particular funding call. Please check the Funding Opportunities page on or website to check for our open calls, and please do sign up to our newsletter to be kept informed of any future opportunities.

Key eligibility requirements

Although eligibility criteria may differ from one particular call to another, please note, to qualify for funding from the HIF, proposed projects must directly relate to the provision of humanitarian aid in emergencies, disaster prevention and preparedness, or reconstruction relief and rehabilitation.

Applications for funding must also provide evidence of innovation – the creation and implementation of new or improved methods with the potential to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, quality or social outcomes/impacts of humanitarian aid.

Innovation Management Resources

Building on the HIF’s unique position in the sector, the Humanitarian Innovation Guide is designed to provide targeted support to individuals and organisations attempting to develop innovative solutions to the challenges facing humanitarian assistance, resulting in a more effective humanitarian response.

Humanitarian Innovation Guide

The Guide is a growing online resource to help individuals and organisations find their starting point and navigate the humanitarian innovation journey.


Location and setting

Are there geographic constraints on who can apply for funding?

We are looking to fund innovative projects that focus on one or more specific humanitarian settings. See our glossary for how we define humanitarian settings.

What do you mean by “humanitarian”?

See our glossary for how we define humanitarian settings.

Is COVID-19 response considered a humanitarian setting?

We recognise that in existing humanitarian settings there may now be new or amended humanitarian programming to prevent and respond to COVID-19. Projects implemented as part of COVID-19 response activities in an existing humanitarian setting will be eligible. Implementation as part of COVID-19 response activities outside of an existing humanitarian setting (ie, in the general population of a country) is not eligible.

Does COVID-19 classify as a health emergency?

The project must be implemented in an existing humanitarian setting. COVID-19 response alone will not constitute a humanitarian setting. If covid-19 health programming is taking place, for example, in an existing refugee camp, that will be eligible. See our glossary for more information on how we define humanitarian settings.

What is considered an ‘operational humanitarian organisation’?

See our glossary for how we define operational humanitarian organisation.

Project team

Do partnerships need to be in place when we submit our full proposal? Do we have to have an MoU or a similar agreement in place?

You are not expected to have confirmed partnerships in place for the Expression of Interest stage, but you must provide the names of your suggested partners. You will then be expected to provide evidence to demonstrate the partnerships by the Full Proposal stage – such as a memorandum of understanding (MoU), an agreement in principle, or similar.

How will the funding call take into account potential difficulties arising from COVID-19?

We know that the global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted ‘business as usual’ operations in many humanitarian settings, and for many humanitarian organisations and responders. We’re confident that the problems set out in our Innovation Challenges are still relevant, solutions are still needed and that progress towards developing them can still be made. We encourage you to share any specific considerations or potential adaptations to your approach in response to the current global context in your application.

Would you fund innovations targeted at humanitarian organisations, rather than people affected by crises?

Yes, we would. However, for projects where the primary user or target group is humanitarian organisations rather than populations affected by crises, we would want to see clear and direct links to improved humanitarian outcomes for populations affected by crisis in the evidence supporting the problem and proposed solution.

For example, we funded Translators Without Borders (TWB), a non-profit organisation that offers language and translation support for humanitarian agencies. TWB’s activities are supported by extensive research and evidence that highlights the detrimental effects of a lack of local language translation on the provision of appropriate humanitarian aid, and therefore the need for better translation in emergencies.

Can one institution apply for more than one challenge if there are multiple Innovation Challenges open at the same?

Yes, organisations are welcome to apply for more than one Challenge. There is no limit to the number of applications one organisation can submit if they are proposing different projects. Please note that the Common Grant Application system will not allow one user/ account to have more than one application in progress at a time. You can either create separate logins for each application or use the ‘Key Offline Questions’ word document to prepare the questions then paste these into CGA and submit one at a time.

Project budget

What can and can’t be covered by the grant funding?

We can fund:
• Direct implementation costs and project activities
• material costs (ie, the production or development of the innovation)
• innovation adaptation costs (ie, costs associated with any iterations informed by the research)
• publication costs for research outputs
• project-related staff salaries
• project-related travel expenses.

We can’t fund:
• retrospective costs
• loan repayments
• running costs that are not related to the project
• non-project-related materials or activities
• standard humanitarian programming that is not related to the chosen innovation
• Construction of permanent structures.

Further information is available in our Eligible Costs Guidance

What is the overhead rate for your funding opportunities?

Overheads may be claimed at up to 10% of direct costs. Please do refer to our Eligible Costs Guidance for further information on eligible and ineligible costs.

Successful/unsuccessful applications

What are the requirements for reporting?

Please see the reporting requirements section for Current Grantees. Details on the reporting requirements and timings will be shared at the contracting stage, as well as details of our safeguarding and whistle-blowing policy, procedures and feedback mechanisms. 

My proposal was unsuccessful; can I get some feedback on what I can improve?

At the Expression of Interest stage, we are not able to provide detailed individual feedback for applications that did not sufficiently demonstrate how they met the eligibility criteria for the specified Innovation Challenge. Where applicants are unsuccessful at the Full Proposal stage, we will provide further feedback as collated from the Technical Reviewers and Funding Committee where applicable.

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