5th Special ERG Call for Proposals from PhD Students

Application to this call is now closed. Please see the list of open and upcoming calls here.

PEDL invites applications from PhD students to the fifth of this special ERG call. 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. To date, the ERG programme has funded more than 170 projects, many of which have involved research carried out by PhD students.

While PhD 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. Our four previous special calls for PhD students have resulted in 29 projects being funded. Moreover, these grantees have been invited to participate in two-day workshops, in the days immediately preceding the annual PEDL Conference, which they have been invited to attend. The workshops have given all the awardees a chance to present and receive feedback on their projects or proposals, as well as to network with PEDL grant holders and other researchers working on firms in LICs.

Applicants must be currently enrolled in a PhD programme to be eligible for this special call. 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. It will promote research related to private enterprises of all sizes and invites applications in any aspect of private sector development, with a particular emphasis on PEDL’s four priority research areas:

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

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

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 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 current situation, PEDL is very unlikely to support projects that require face-to-face interaction. 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 Ed Sellers at [email protected].


Applications should be submitted by 23:59 BST, 15 June 2020 (CLOSED). Those received after this time will be considered for the next regular ERG round.

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: