2nd CDC MRG Call on Development Finance

Application to the 2nd CDC MRG Call on Development Finance is now closed.

The Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) Program and CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, invite expressions of interest for Major Research Grant projects on the role of development finance in stimulating private sector development. We seek work that is directly applicable to understanding the impact of CDC’s investments and that has potential to produce high-quality academic publications. Please note that for this call, a one-page expression of interest is required before applications are submitted. EOIs must be submitted by 1 October 2021 to [email protected]. EOIs must clearly state the relevance of the research to CDC.

Key Dates for this call:

3 and 17 September 2021: ‘Open-house’ sessions with CDC’s in-house evaluation team
1 October, 2021: Deadline for submission of Expressions of Interest
22 October, 2021: Deadline for submission of full proposal
January 2022: Decisions expected

CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) are sponsoring this new research initiative aimed at understanding the impact of development finance on private sector development. Issues of interest include the effect of investment on private sector growth; the characteristics of high-growth firms and how they impact on their sectors and localities; supporting quality jobs, gender and climate finance; and production and distribution of broader inclusive products and services.

We highlight two topics of particular interest for this call. First, CDC is a founding member and leader of the 2XCollaborative, which aims to support women as entrepreneurs, leaders, employees, and consumers. We are particularly interested in projects that combine existing administrative data and new data collection to unpack the channels through which women’s leadership improves outcomes for firms in the African and South Asian context. We provide below some detail for an agenda in this area at the bottom of this call.

We also invite expressions of interest on projects related to climate change and environmental compliance. CDC has a growing climate finance portfolio, guided by its climate strategy. We are interested in research improves our understanding of:

  • Uptake of energy-saving innovations by private sector firms and consumers.
  • How renewables and storage support the development of reliable electricity grids.
  • The complementarity of investments that improve local environmental quality while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • How to stimulate private sector-led action in adaptation and resilience
  • Sources of risk for private sector investment in renewables (e.g., Ryan 2021 on solar pricing in India).

Researchers wishing to discuss any issues not apparent from CDC’s website are encouraged to arrange a slot at two ‘open-house’ sessions with CDC’s in-house evaluation team on 3 September and 17 September (email [email protected] to book a slot).

MRGs are grants of £100,000 or more. There is no formal upper limit, but past MRGs have averaged around £300,000. These grants will fund research assistance, data collection and new surveys in CDC-priority countries and (if necessary) teaching buyouts for the principal investigator. Please note that cost effectiveness and value for money are important evaluation criteria and costs considered to be unreasonable may result in a lower proposal rating. Please refer to the MRG budget guidelines for further guidance on research stipends.

Grant Set-up:

MRG projects typically run for up to 36 months. Please note that contracts should be signed within three months of the outcome notification, which is also the expected start date for the projects.

For further information on MRGs, please consult the FAQs.

Country Criteria:

Please note that an important criterion for funding of proposals is the relevance to understanding the impact of CDC’s investments. CDC Group’s current mandate is Africa and South Asia. Proposals for projects outside the focus countries should make a clear case for the relevance of the research to policy in lower-income countries, and also justify why the research is feasible only in non-target countries. Note that, at the moment, we are unable to fund projects located in Myanmar and Palestine.


Researchers whose proposals rely on face-to-face surveys or interventions should clearly discuss the implications for the project of potential delays, and the alternatives to face-to-face field work, in the event that the fieldwork is delayed by COVID-19. This can be included in the methodology section of the proposal template.  Any fieldwork will need to be cleared by the university and, where possible, in-country IRBs. Decisions on fieldwork should follow the advice of governments. Finally, any proposal that includes face-to-face interaction should also briefly make clear how the researchers intend to ensure the safety of researchers and any participants involved in the study. If you have questions on this, please contact  [email protected].


An EOI must be submitted before a formal application. EOIs should be submitted by 23:59 GMT, 1 October 2021 to [email protected]. We will not be able to consider EOIs received after the deadline. If invited following a review of the EOI, full applications should be submitted by 23:59 GMT, 22 October 2021.  More information on how to apply as well as access to the online application form are available here.


  • All applicants are required to use the CDC MRG templates listed below under "Resources"
  • Please note that at the beginning of your online application, you will need to select "I am applying to a Major Research Grant call"

Additional Information on Research Priority Area: The Importance of Women’s Leadership in the Private Sector

The overwhelming majority of literature on female corporate leadership is based on data from high-income countries. PEDL-CDC seeks work on women leadership based in CDC-focused countries. The context in low- and middle-income countries may differ in ways that alter the impact. For example, Sarkar and Selarka (2021) use data from India to show that the impact of women as leaders is weaker in firms that are family owned and managed. Closely-held firms are particularly common in most lower-income countries.

Much of the literature on women leadership is limited to showing correlations with financial outcomes. Clear causal evidence is beyond our expectation. But we encourage work that sheds light on the channels through which women leadership affects firm outcomes in CDC-focus countries, particularly work that considers the particular context in lower-income countries.

We welcome expressions of interest on any topic related to the impact of women leadership. A sample of the questions relevant to this call:

  • There is some evidence that women have more influence in countries with: 1) more egalitarian gender attitudes; and 2) better shareholder protection (Post and Bryon 2014; Hoobler et al. 2016). Are these patterns also true in CDC-focus countries? What can be done to increase the influence of women in leadership roles in societies where gender egalitarianism and shareholder protection are weaker?
  • Does the motivation for adding women to boards matter? For example, do laws vs. investor demands vs. intrinsic motivation of owners lead to differences in the values of female directors?
  • Do attitudes of women and men who are corporate leaders differ, and if so, how? There is evidence that women and men differ in values and attitudes in values in the broader populations. However, Adams and Funk (2012) use Swedish data to show that women leaders are differentially selected from the population so that the values of female and male board members are much closer than they are in the population as a whole.
  • How and when do differences in values map into differences in outcomes in the firms? For example, Sarkar and Selarka (2021) find in India that independent board members have larger effects and that the effect of women leadership is smaller when family members control key executive positions.

We are particularly interested in the link between women ESG performance: the work environment, transparency, environmental standards, products targeted to women and lower-income customers, etc.

We have compiled a list of databases that may be relevant for research in this area, available here. We also encourage projects that collect original data through surveys, social media platforms like Linked-In, or other sources.


Information Pre-Application:

Application Templates:

For PEDL Grant Holders: