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26 MAR 2018

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NEF Challenge of Invention to Innovation (Ci2i)

The competition

On 26-28 March 2018, the Next Einstein Forum will host its second Global Gathering in Kigali, Rwanda. A critical component of the NEF is its unique innovation competition, the Challenge of Invention to Innovation (Ci2i). Young African scientists and innovators under 42 years of age are invited to present their research driven innovations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to a panel of experts in a pitch style competition.

The NEF Ci2i focuses on innovations of high impact globally and locally that a ready to be scaled up. Judges and participants come from major pan-African and global business, pharmaceutical and technological companies providing an unparalleled opportunity for researchers and entrepreneurs, both in terms of feedback and mentorship and in terms of funding to scale and expand R&D efforts.

Applications to the competition will launched on 10 January 2018 and the NEF team will pre-select the top 15 who will pitch their innovations at the NEF GG 2018. Each presenter will have 4 minutes to present to an audience of academics, business leaders, investors, government leaders on a three to five-member jury panel. Within the 4 minutes, presenters should clearly describe their innovation or project, its impact and scalability. The language for the competition is English.

Goal of the competition

The goal of the Ci2i competition is to reward research based innovation and highlight the global impact of African researchers and entrepreneurs. In 2016, the NEF Ci2i finalists received significant media attention and were invited to other global platforms and competitions.

At the NEF we believe that inventions, especially science-driven ones, are critical to Africa’s transformation. It is not enough to have ideas or inventions; to impact humanity these inventions must reach the people and become innovations. The Ci2i is one platform which will bridge this gap.

Categories of submission

Candidates will be invited to submit presentations under three main categories:

  • Climate Smart Innovations (Energy, Agriculture, Circular Economy etc.)
  • Deep-tech Innovations (Data driven innovation, Autonomous Systems, AI, Machine Learning, Digital Innovation, Fintech etc.)
  • Personalized Health Innovations

The list above is not exhaustive, we invite all great innovators to apply. The NEF team will select the top 5 innovations to present at the NEF Global Gathering 2018.

Who can participate?

Participation in the competition is open to Africans of all nationalities under 42 years of age. In the case that teams are led by a non-African, one of the co-founders or chief executives must be African.

Who will attend and who will judge the pitching sessions?

  • Leading scientists
  • Leading business people
  • Funding organizations
  • Government officials – African and Foreign
  • Members of the global press


Judging Format

The judging panel will consist of three to five subject matter experts, business and academic leaders and government officials. The competition will have two rounds, with the first being 4 minute presentations from all 15 candidates. The final round will be held in plenary. The top 2 innovations in each category will pitch for the final prize in their category. The public will also get to vote via the GG2018 app. The public vote will count for 50% and the other 50% from the final round judges.


The monetary prizes for Ci2i winners and runner ups will be announcing during the unveiling of the selected Top 15 innovators to pitch at the NEF Ci2i. In addition to a monetary prize, winners will get significant media exposure and benefit from the NEF’s global network to further scale up funding and connect with partners and collaborators.

Click here to read more about previous winners of the Ci2i Competition who were featured on the BBC.

Selection Criteria

During the first round of the competition, the jury will use score sheets to choose the top 2 presenters. The score sheets will assess the following criteria on a scale of 1 to 10:

  1. Clarity of the presentation
  2. Originality, novelty or innovativeness of the work or idea being presented
  3. Potential for or evidence of impact and application of the presented work or idea to human needs
  4. Scalability including business plan

In the second round, the winner will be selected based on the following criteria:

  1. Scalability
  2. Potential Impact

In case of a tie, the jury will decide the victor through a quick vote.


If you have a brilliant idea/invention that you believe will have a high impact in Africa and globally or are already running a start-up and need funds to scale up, we invite you to apply.

The deadline for submission of applications closed on 12 February 2018.

The Top 15 will be announced 1 March 2018.