Coopen: Call for Innovators – Circular Economy


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.

Create an impactful innovation in Africa by building a partnership with an Italian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This is the goal of Coopen’s Call for Innovators – Circular Economy. 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 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 15 teams of innovators that will participate in Selection Day.

At Selection Day, 5 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:

  • Reducing waste production
  • Incentivizing reuse and recycling
  • Culture of reuse and behavioural change
  • Entrepreneurial training and vision
  • Preserving food
  • Autonomy, cooperation and support networks
  • Access to data and best practices

The Italian CSOs selected through the Call for Interest are: Cesvi Onlus, CIFA Onlus, E4Impact Foundation, Fondazione ACRA, Fondazione AVSI, LiveinSlums, LVIA, Mani Tese.


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).

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 Time – CET) on 18 December 2020.

The Selection Process

Up to 15 teams will be selected at the Call for Innovators – Circular Economy. They will then go on to participate in Selection Day, in mid-February 2021.

At Selection Day, up to a maximum of 5 teams will be chosen to take part in the next phase of Coopen: a mentoring process with a CSO that presents 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 circular economy challenges in Africa.

The Foundations will grant the CSO leader a minimum of 90,000 euros for each project, some of which 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, it is now time for the Call for Innovators (Phase 2 – Challenge) to be geared toward Circular Economy.

Two other Calls for Innovators (Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture, 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. This fundings will support the design, implementation and development of the innovations, including the costs of incubation, acceleration, and mentorship.

Call for Innovators – Circular Economy: Key Dates

  • Collection of the applications: from 3 November 2020 to 18 December 2020 (by 11:59 pm).
  • Assessment of the applications: up to a maximum of fifteen (15) Innovators will be selected by 15 January 2021 to participate in the Selection Day.
  • Selection Day (final selection of the projects): up to a maximum of five (5) Innovators who will pass on to the next phase will be identified in the first half of February 2021.
  • Project presentation in cooperation with the CSO(s): within one month from the Selection Day.
  • Incubation/acceleration process: three-month duration (from March – April 2021 to June – July 2021).
  • Pilot project implementation: three to six months from the end of the incubation/acceleration process (an extension will be evaluated based on possible specific needs).

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