3rd BII MRG Call on Development Finance

Applications to the 3rd BII MRG Call on Development Finance are now closed.

The Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) Program and British International Investment (BII, formerly the CDC Group), the UK’s development finance institution, invite expressions of interest for Major Research Grant projects relevant to the role of development finance in stimulating private sector development. We seek work that is directly applicable to understanding the impact of BII’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 15 November 2022 to [email protected]. EOIs must clearly state how the project will benefit and is connected to BII, and how it will advance the academic literature. 

Key Dates for this call:

  • 15 November, 2022: Deadline for submission of Expressions of Interest
  • 30 November, 2022: Deadline for submission of full proposal
  • February 2023: Decisions expected

BII, 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 four topics of particular interest for this call. First, BII 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. 

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

  • Uptake of resource-saving innovations by private sector firms and consumers.
  • The role of concessional finance in promoting sustainable investments.
  • 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.
  • Barriers to private sector investment in renewables, including regulatory risks (e.g., Ryan 2021 on solar pricing in India).

Third, we encourage research on capital markets and on the types of finance that are most important for growth and development. The role of development finance institutions and blended finance on firm growth and capital market formation in low- and middle-income countries is of particular interest. For example a potential research topic could be: is there evidence for additionality of DFI finance, and mobilisation of capital following investments by DFIs?

Finally, BII encourages investment on digital transformation. BII has invested in major platforms in Ethiopia and the DRC, and investing in digital technology is a key component of its current five-year strategy. We are interested in research that examines the importance of digital technology for productive, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Grant Set-up: 

MRGs are normally grants of £100,000 or more, though we will accept proposals for smaller projects in this call. 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 BII-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.

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 BII’s investments. BII’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].


A one-page Expression of Interest (EOI) must be submitted before a formal application. The EOI should clarify how the project will benefit and is connected to BII, and how it will advance the academic literature. EOIs should be submitted by 23:59 GMT, 15 November 2022 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, 30 November 2022.  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 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-BII seeks work on women leadership based in BII-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 BII-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 BII-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 have compiled a list of databases that have been used or might be used to conduct research on this topic. This list is available here

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 encourage projects that use existing databases, collect original data through surveys, social media platforms like Linked-In, or other sources. 


Information Pre-Application:

Application Templates:

For PEDL Grant Holders: