6th Special ERG Call for Proposals from PhD Students

Applications to this call are now closed.

The Private Enterprise Development in Low-Income countries (PEDL) research initiative invites applications from PhD students to the Sixth Special Call for Proposals of its Exploratory Research Grants (ERG) programme. The deadline for submissions is 23:59 GMT, 31 March 2022.

A key goal of the ERG programme is to encourage research on issues related to private enterprise development in low-income countries by young scholars. While students are eligible to apply to any ERG funding round, we are issuing a special call exclusively for PhD students in order to encourage broader participation in the programme.

We welcome proposals on any topic related to firms in lower-income countries, but are particularly interested in projects in the following areas:

  • Market frictions, management and organisations
  • Trade and macro models - agglomeration and spatial location of firms
  • High growth entrepreneurship
  • Social compliance, climate change, and the environment

We are running a concurrent open call for proposals on Climate Change and the Environment, and encourage proposals under this PhD student call that address the topics specified in that call. We also particularly encourage proposals that address one or more of PEDL’s three cross-cutting themes:

  • Fragile and conflict affected states
  • Gender
  • Unlocking data for understanding markets and firms

Proposals responding to this call should make clear how the research addresses firms. Projects may examine the role of firms as individual entities or the interaction of firms within markets. PEDL does not focus on agriculture, although we are open to projects exploring firm-farm interactions through input and output markets.

Applicants (including all team members) must be currently enrolled in a PhD programme to be eligible for this special call and are required to submit a letter of support from their academic advisor/supervisor. The proposed research should form at least part of the student’s planned doctoral dissertation.

PEDL ERG Initiative:

The 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). Existing research suggests that the private sector in LICs faces a multitude of constraints that act upon each other. What is needed is research that allows us to understand how these constraints interact.

The objective of PEDL is to fund cutting-edge, policy-oriented research that could be published in leading academic journals and be relevant to the policy dialogue in LICs. Applications will be assessed on the basis of these criteria.

ERGs are designed to allow researchers to:

  • explore new approaches to the study of firms in LICs; and
  • to develop new (or build on) existing sources of data on firms in LICs.

ERGs are grants of between £10,000 and £40,000. These grants will fund research assistance, data collection and new surveys in LICs, 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 ERG budget guidelines below for further guidance on research stipends.

Grant Set-up:

ERG projects typically run for 12 months.

Please note that contracts should be signed within one month of the outcome notification, which is also the expected start date for the projects.

ERGs are designed to be contracted directly with individual researchers. The individual researcher will be responsible for receiving, spending and reporting on funds. There should be no institutional involvement. In exceptional circumstances and with significant justification contracts can be drafted with the individual's institution, but these are non-negotiable and the institution cannot take any overhead fees.

For further information on ERGs, please consult the FAQs.

Country Criteria:

Please note that an important criterion for funding of proposals is the relevance to policy in LICs and other eligible countries as defined by the PEDL Programme. See the list of LICs and DFID focus countries here. 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 we are currently unable to fund projects located in Myanmar and Palestine.


Given the ongoing and varied impacts of COVID-19, it is expected that proposals involving face-to-face interaction will clearly explain their planned safety measures and contingency plans in the proposal. We encourage proposals that make use of existing administrative data or collect information through other means such as phone surveys so long as this is feasible and won’t diminish the quality of the data collected. If you have questions on this, please contact the PEDL team at [email protected].


Applications should be submitted by 23:59 GMT, 31 March 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 special Exploratory Research Grant call"
  • As part of the application process, applicants will need to submit a letter of support from an academic advisor / supervisor
  • All members of the research team (principal investigator and co-investigator(s)) have to be currently enrolled in a PhD programme


Information Pre-Application:

Application Templates:

For PEDL Grant Holders: