MRR Innovation Lab 2019 Call for Proposals for Research on Food Security and Resilience

research in Morogoro

*UPDATE: The window for Letters of Intent has closed as of 10/7/19 5pm PT. We anticipate releasing the next open call in late 2020. Sign up for MRR Update to receive news on future funding calls and to learn about new projects we will launch in 2019-2020. 

**2019-2020 MRR Budget Template Use this template for RFPs due on 11/17/19.

The MRR Innovation Lab invites researchers at U.S. universities to submit proposals for four-year research projects that support our mission to generate and transfer into action innovations that will bolster resilience, keeping rural individuals, households, communities and markets in positions of economic viability from which they can sustain and accelerate a path of inclusive agricultural growth.


  • 10/7/19 5pm PT: Letter of Intent (one paragraph)
  • 11/17/19 12 am PT: Full Proposal


  • Maximum request amount: $750,000
  • Maximum request for seed grants and feasibility studies: $40,000


  • Proposals must be led from a U.S. university and must identify at least one PI from a host-country institution
  • Researchers will be required to contribute toward integrating research findings in to policy-focused publications and will participate in dissemination events and activities


  • Proposals should tie into one or more MRR research priorities:
    • Enabling Resilient Escapes from Poverty
    • Financial and Agronomic Innovations for Inclusive Growth and Resilience
    • Resilient Systems for Broadly-based Agricultural Growth
  • Projects will take place in Feed the Future target, Feed the Future aligned or resilience-focus countries as indicated by USAID
  • We encourage those that include deliberate learning objectives related to gender, youth and nutrition either as a primary focus of the research or as relevant cross-cutting issues


  • Proposals will be reviewed by the MRR Innovation Lab Director, Associate Director and independent reviewers; the MRR Board of Directors will make final selections
  • The MRR Innovation Lab anticipates funding 4-8 proposals under this solicitation, with a second RFP for U.S. university researchers issued in October 2020

Questions on this solicitation may be directed to the BASIS/MRR Innovation Lab office at or 530-752-7252.

Download the full 2019 Request for Proposals PDF.


Funding FAQ

Are there limitations on which countries we can propose research in?

  • Field-based research activities should take place in Feed the Future target, Feed the Future aligned, or resilience focus countries as indicated by USAID. Visit the Feed the Future website for a complete list.
  • We recommend that you review the USAID Mission country strategy if available online. If the Mission country strategy has agricultural programming as a priority, then that is often a good indication that country is aligned with the Feed the Future agenda. As of 9/24/19 there is a funding freeze for Honduras and Guatemala.

To what extent is local Mission engagement recommended before writing the proposals?

  • Mission engagement is not required at the proposal stage, but it may strengthen your submission.
  • At a minimum, Mission concurrence will be required for all projects that are selected before activities can begin.

Will there be additional funding windows?

  • Yes, there will be at least two more calls for proposals. A second call for US University-led research proposals will be posted sometime around October 2020.
  • There will be an additional call posted in early 2020. This funding window will specifically target host country institutions to serve as research leads.

Can one PI submit more than one proposal?

  • Yes! You can be a PI on multiple proposals.

A Letter of Intent is required before submitting a full proposal. What should be included in that letter?

  • Yes, a one paragraph letter of intent is required – due 5pm PT, on Monday October 7th, 2019. We are asking for one paragraph that includes your key research questions, anticipated country of research and anticipated partners.
  • The purpose of the LOI is to garner enough information to line up the appropriate external reviewers to assess the full proposals.
  • This LOI will not be included in the evaluation process. You will receive a confirmation of receipt once you have submitted your LOI. Everyone who submits a LOI may proceed to submit a full proposal.

Under this call, can other US-based organizations or research institutions apply as the lead?

  • Except under extraordinary circumstances, the lead award under this RFP must go to a US university. US-based co-PIs can be from research institutes.
  • Host country co-PIs also do not have to be from universities; other types of research institutes are permissible.

What do we do if an US University lead PI anticipates moving university during the lifetime of the award?

  • Please apply under your current US University rather than the non-university partner institutions. We will manage the shift. If you have any questions on how to incorporate the anticipated shift into your proposal budget, please contact our Associate Director, Tara Chiu at

Are you only looking for RCTs? What kind of research designs would you fund?

  • We are open to theoretically well-grounded studies, with credible identification strategies, which may include but is not limited to RCTs.

Are matching funds required for selected projects?

  • The MRR Innovation Lab strongly encourages each research project match 10% or more of their budget over the life of the project with non-federal funds or contributions. All projects must provide indicative matching figures for their projects in the templates provided.
  • Seed grant proposals are not expected to provide these matching funds, but are requested to include a budget for PI travel to the annual technical committee meeting.

Are there more details you can provide about the “Proof of Concept” option mentioned in this proposal request?

  • Yes, there will be funding set aside for up to four proof of concept proposals. These are research ideas that are not fully formed, though promising.
  • Selected projects will receive up to $40,000 to refine ideas and strategies, and establish the feasibility of a fully funded longer-term research project. If results are promising, researchers can then submit full proposals under the October 2020 call.