5th Call for MRG Proposals, Deadline: October 2, 2017 - CLOSED

Fifth Call for Major Research Grant Proposals

Deadline: 2 October 2017, 23.59 GMT


The fifth call for PEDL Major Research Grants (MRGs) is now closed.
The Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) programme pursues a research agenda that aims to better understand what determines the strength of market forces driving efficiency in Low-Income Countries (LICs). The Initiative supports research related to firms, enterprises, and markets in LICs and gives priority to approaches that promise to produce credible research results relevant for policy-making in these countries.

There have been four previous MRG rounds with 29 MRGs awarded at an average of £300k each.  A description of funded projects can be found here.

The recent extension of PEDL through to the end of 2021 has enabled the launch of a 5th MRG call.
We welcome proposals in any area related to private sector development in low-income countries. However, we expect that many of the funded proposals will relate to one or more of PEDL’s four main research themes:

  • Market frictions, management and organizations: Well-functioning markets provide discipline for entrepreneurs, managers and investors. Competition increases incentives for efficiency and for innovation. But markets in LICs often do not function well. Weak institutions, missing information, and concentrated markets limit competitive pressure. Firms are often unwilling or unable to switch trading partners, undermining incentives. Projects in this area might explore market micro-structure, organisation of production within firms. Projects that create new data useful to other researchers are especially encouraged.
  • Trade and macro models – agglomeration and spatial location of firms:Few countries have enjoyed long periods of sustained growth without an active foreign trade sector. Evidence suggests that exporters play a role in aggregate growth which is disproportionate to their share in output. First, exporters are a conduit for knowledge transfers that may (to varying degrees) spill over to the rest of the economy. Because export markets are highly competitive they provide very strong incentives for productivity improvements; because foreign consumers often have a higher willingness to pay for quality, exporters also face stronger incentives to upgrade both capital and labour used in production. The focus on foreign trade overlaps in important ways with a focus on location of firms are workers more generally.
  • High growth entrepreneurship: A majority of the labour force in LICs works in firms with fewer than five workers. But we know from both cross-country and time-series evidence that the process of development is associated with a decrease in the share of the labour force that is self-employed and an increase in average firm size. Most small scale entrepreneurs in LICs are motivated by subsistence, with little interest in or prospect for sustained growth. Policies that help raise income of subsistence entrepreneurs will not be appropriate for more dynamic entrepreneurs. We need both tools for selecting entrepreneurs with more potential for growth and policies designed to help those entrepreneurs grow.
  • Social compliance and the environment: Creation of wage jobs is an important outcome of a healthy private sector. But creation of desirable wage jobs should be the goal: jobs that are fairly remunerated with safe working conditions. There is evidence that export-oriented firms pay a wage premium in many countries. But by itself, the wage premium may not make factory jobs desirable. Turnover rates are often very high, especially among new factory workers. In export sectors, we need to understand how demands for social compliance are reflected through brands to local producers in LICs. A further question is how social compliance interacts with productivity. Moreover, certain types of workers – women and minorities, for example – often face a more hostile working environment.

PEDL also encourages proposals that address its three cross-cutting themes: Gender; Fragile and Conflict-Affected States; and Unlocking Data for Understanding Markets and Firms. Proposals addressing these themes have an increased chance of receiving funding.

The full PEDL research strategy is available here.
Application procedure
Major Research Grants will have a minimum budget of £100,000 with no upper limit. Note that our overall budget is constrained in this round, and we anticipate being able to 5-6 projects at an average of around £300,000. Value for money is always an important consideration, but will be more so in this round given the strict overall budget limit. Budgets may include funds for research assistance, data collection and new surveys in low-income countries, and teaching buyouts for the principal investigator. Proposals funded in this call may have a term of up to three years.

The priority countries for this call include low-income countries, DFID target countries and fragile states. Projects carried out partly or entirely in other lower-middle income countries will be considered only if a compelling case is made that the results are applicable to policy in the priority countries.
The deadline for submissions was 2 October 2017. For more information on the submission process and requirements , please see the MRG, the FAQs and the How to Apply for a Major Grant pages.