About RIU Best Bets
RIU Best Bets is testing an innovative competitive funding mechanism in which up to £5 million of grant aid is being provided to a number of large-scale technology promotion activities.
Selected activities are anticipated to achieve significant developmental impact at scale through private sector involvement.
The inspiration for the RIU Best Bets initiative comes from the successful and popular BBC television programme Dragons' Den
. Versions of this programme are broadcast around the world under a variety of local names (Money Tigers in Japan; Shark Tank in the USA). The basic concept is that would-be entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of wealthy and successful entrepreneurs who, subject to satisfactory due diligence, invest their own money and expertise in proposals that they find convincing, in return for an equity stake in the business.
RIU Best Bets takes the central tenets, of ideas being pitched to an expert panel and due diligence, but in other aspects the procedure and principles vary significantly: the Best Bets panellists
will be making recommendations as to how RIU should invest its programme money, and overall the process will be far less confrontational and more supportive and nurturing. The objective is to identify promising proposals that take existing agriculture research knowledge (which includes information, technologies, practices and policies) and put these into use in ways that will benefit the poor (and others) in developing countries through partnerships in which private sector actors play a major role.
The rationale for using the private sector in RIU Best Bets
Ian Maudlin, RIU Director, writes: "If we are to eradicate poverty then this would depend to a great extent on the energy and drive of business and commerce. Business kick-starts a virtuous economic cycle: new enterprises are formed, new jobs are created, new skills are gained, and incomes begin to rise. Soon growth and productivity follow, spurring more innovation and efficiency and generating the products and services that people want and need. And in parallel, people gain opportunity, empowerment, and dignity."
RIU's return on its investment
|"Economic growth and our ambitions for the eradication of poverty depend upon the energy and drive of business and commerce. In fact, I cannot envision an effective development strategy that is free of or uninformed by the private sector. When we examine instances where development has succeeded, in every case business was the engine of development. There is no hope for development without business, and in the long term there is no hope for business without development. Governments cannot hope for development without business, and business needs them to be successful".
Rajat Gupta, McKinsey's senior partner. From a speech at the United Nations, 14 September 2005
The money that RIU will invest in the selected Best Bets is in the form of a grant. RIU's return on its investment will not be financial - rather it will be in the form of learning.
The Best Bets proposals which RIU support form a component of the RIU experiment exploring ways in which research gets into use.
The Best Bets teams will also be expected to work closely with RIU's communication specialists and journalists to achieve widespread coverage of their research into use success stories.
Africa Innovation Challenge Fund
During 2008 a call was made for submissions for an RIU African Innovation Challenge Fund - similar to the RIU Asian Innovation Challenge Fund. The call generated 130 concept notes from ten different countries. As a result of recommendations made by the programme's Mid-Term Review, the African Innovation Challenge Fund process was cancelled. Proposals that had been short-listed for the African Innovation Challenge Fund had been invited to have their projects considered as potential RIU Best Bets - an invitation that many accepted.
What is Best Bets?
RIU has invested in a number of Best Bets. At an early stage of the RIU programme, two clusters of projects were selected for further investment as exemplars. Each cluster arose from work undertaken under DFID's former agriculture research strategy (RNRRS). They were selected due to their high potential to have impact at scale and to generate useful lessons about putting research into use. Both involve putting research into use through partnerships in which the private sector plays a prominent role. Both therefore serve as exemplar projects for RIU Best Bets and also add diversity and richness to the RIU Best Bets portfolio. The case studies of these projects have helped define how the open calls in Africa should proceed.
So far in excess of £2m has been invested in promising projects. The full list of RIU Best Bets currently being funded is: