Coopen: Call for Innovators – Food and Sustainable Agriculture


The call is open to innovators, start-ups, research groups, university departments and spin-offs, Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) interested in creating an impactful project in Africa together with an Italian Civil Society Organization.

Call for Innovators – Food and Sustainable Agriculture

After the success of the first Call for Innovators – Circular Economy, Coopen promotes a second Call dedicated to innovative companies active in the Food and Sustainable Agriculture sector.

Creating an impactful innovation in Africa by building a partnership with Italian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This is the goal of Coopen’s Call for Innovators –  Food and Sustainable Agriculture. Coopen is a participative programme supported by Fondazione Cariplo and Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo as part of the Innovazione per lo Sviluppo (Innovation for Development) project.

The Call for Innovators – Food and Sustainable Agriculture targets the wider sector of innovation by including innovators active both in Italy and Africa: among others, university spin-offs and departments, research centers, start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), individual innovators.

Innovators are invited to respond to the challenges identified by a group of Italian CSOs involved in the previous steps of Coopen.

The Challenges

The goal of this call is to identify up to 15 teams of innovators that will participate in a Demo Day.

During the Demo Day, up to 9 teams will be chosen to create a partnership with Italian CSOs to develop an innovative solution for one of the challenges listed below. The 7 challenges identified by the Italian CSOs are:

  • Training and sharing of experiences
  • Agricultural productivity
  • Data collection and organisation
  • Entrepreneurial mindset
  • Crop biodiversity
  • Traceability and quality
  • Economic sustainability models

The Italian CSOs selected through the Call for Interest are: ActionAid, CEFA Comitato Europeo per la Formazione e l’Agricoltura, CELIM – Centro Laici per le Missioni, CIAI – ITALIAN ASSOCIATION FOR AID TO CHILDREN, COL’OR NGO, ENGIM, FONDAZIONE ACRA, Fondazione Slow Food per la Biodiversità, Istituto Internazionale per la Cooperazione e lo Sviluppo (C&D), LVIA, Mani Tese, TAMAT.

Three Reasons to Participate

  1. Build a partnership with an Italian organization interested in developing an innovative solution with a substantial project
  2. Test and validate your technology or innovation in the field
  3. Receive funding to cover costs (e.g. IT, marketing, business development, etc.)

Requirements to Apply

To answer the call, innovators must:

  • African candidates must work in one of the following African countries: Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger;
  • Italian candidates must be willing to work in one of the following African countries: Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso or Niger;
  • Candidates need to have developed initiatives and/or technologies with a 3-6 Technology Readiness Level (a chart to measure your TRL level is available here).

All the requirements for participation are available in the Call text, accessible here:

Candidates can submit their proposals by filling out the application form at the following link: 

The deadline for proposals is 11:59 pm (Central European Summer Time – CEST) on 28 May 2021.

The Selection Process

Up to 15 teams will be selected at the Call for Innovators – Food and Sustainable Agriculture. They will then go on to participate in the Demo Day, in July 2021.

At Selection Day, up to a maximum of 9 teams will be chosen to take part in the next phase of Coopen: a mentoring process with those CSOs that presented a challenge for the grounding of a substantive pilot project in a specific African country. This gives the innovators the chance to test and validate, in the field, their proposal to meet the main food and sustainable agriculture challenges in Africa.

The Foundations will grant the CSO leader 90,000 euros for each project some of which (to be defined for each project) will go to the team of innovators selected to implement the solution.

What Is Coopen?

Coopen is a participative process promoted by Innovazione per lo Sviluppo, a program supported by the Cariplo and Compagnia di San Paolo Foundations to promote innovation in the international cooperation and development field. Coopen receives technical support from Cariplo Factory, Tiresia, JengaLab and Effecinque.

The four phases of the Coopen programme:

  1. BUILD – Call for Interest and Roundtables
    Finding the CSOs that will participate and co-design the challenges to present at the future Calls for Innovators.
  2. CHALLENGE – Call for Innovators
    Launching Calls in 3 areas open to the sector of innovation: Circular Economy, Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture, Health and Well-being.
  3. TEST – Incubation and Acceleration
    Creating partnerships between CSOs and innovators. Coopen will make the necessary organizations and resources available to cover the costs of designing and developing innovations.
  4. EXECUTE – Mentorship and Creation
    Grounding and launching the project in the target country.

After the Call for Interest for CSOs (Phase 1 – Build) launched in July 2020 and the Call for Innovators – Circular Economy (Phase 2 – Challenge), it is now time for the Call for Innovators – Food and Sustainable Agriculture.

Another Call for Innovators (Health and Well-being) will be launched in 2021.

For 2020-2021, the overall resources dedicated to Coopen by Fondazione Cariplo and Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo total 1.8 million euros. These fundings will support the design, implementation and development of the innovations, including the costs of incubation, acceleration, and mentorship.

Call for Innovators – Food and Sustainable Agriculture: Key Dates

  • Collection of the applications: from 6 April 2021 to 28 May 2021 (by 11:59 pm CEST).
  • Assessment of the applications: up to a maximum of fifteen (15) Innovators will be selected by 06 July 2021 to participate in the Demo Day.
  • Demo Day: up to a maximum of nine (9) innovator teams who will pass on to the next phase will be identified by the end of July 2021.
  • Project presentation in cooperation with the CSO(s): in the first half of September 2021.
  • Incubation/acceleration process: three-month duration (from October/November 2021 to December 2021 / January 2022).
  • Pilot project implementation: four months from the end of the incubation/acceleration process.

Questions about the Calls

Check the Frequently Asked Questions file on the website.

For more information, write to

Important Links

>> Call info

>> FAQs

>> Application form