Press release: Solar-powered technology to level the playing field for women and girls in world’s poorest countries

12 October 2020

Women and girls and other disadvantaged groups in developing countries will have better access to clean energy, thanks to new funding from UK aid and the IKEA Foundation.

Today, the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund has awarded 20 organisations, including several from the UK, a total of £2.9 million of funding for innovative, solar-powered appliance technology projects that will help to level the playing field whilst addressing the climate emergency. The Modern Energy Cooking Services programme is funding six clean cooking projects, as part of this call for proposals.

The winning projects include Neopenda’s project, ‘A wireless vital signs monitor for new-born babies’, which will pilot an affordable and wireless vital signs technology in low-resource health facilities in East Africa. The company’s neoGuard technology allows clinical staff to monitor up to 20 patients at a time. In this project, neoGuard will be introduced to six to eight health facilities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Jirogasy’s project ‘Jirodesk V2: Solar-powered computers to enable digitalisation in the off-grid market’ seeks to make e-learning more accessible in Madagascar. The project will develop an energy efficient, all in one, solar powered PC, which can be assembled locally. Once the pilot project is complete, the company aims to provide computer access to over 10,000 students in Madagascar every year. 

Simusolar’s project ‘Developing an inclusive, gender-customised Pay As You Go (PAYGO) model for productive uses of energy’ will help female smallholder farmers in off-grid, off-network areas to use solar water pumps and other appliances. Simusolar and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) will develop an innovative data syncing method called ‘PAYG Bridge’ that broadens the coverage of Simusolar’s PAYG platform.

International Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith said:

“As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to build back better and create a greener and more inclusive global economy. That’s why we’re funding innovative solutions for clean energy to protect our environment, while helping to level the playing field for women, disabled people and other disadvantaged groups in some of the world’s poorest countries.

“UK aid has already given 26 million people improved access to clean energy and we will continue to drive global change, including as hosts of COP26 next year.”

In the past year, the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund has supported 21 organisations with over £2.5 million and facilitated a further £750,000 to six electric cooking projects with funding from UK aid. The Research and Development Fund aims to accelerate the availability, affordability, efficiency and performance of a range of appliances that are particularly suited to developing country contexts and promote social inclusion.

Jeffrey Prins, Head of Portfolio – Renewable Energy, IKEA Foundation, said: 

“The IKEA Foundation is proud to support these innovative projects through the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund’s third funding call. We want to inspire and influence the renewable energy sector to embrace productive use of renewable energy in all aspects of human development work, which will make our societies more inclusive and greener. These awardees will do just that.” 

Mike Thornton, Chief Executive, Energy Saving Trust, said: 

“The Research and Development Fund is a vital part of the Efficiency for Access Coalition and we are very pleased to be delivering it in collaboration with our partners CLASP. With an emphasis on inclusivity and enhancing the compatibility of devices, the awardees will play an important role in driving growth and clean energy innovation in the off-grid appliances market.”

About the Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund

  • The Efficiency for Access Research and Development Fund’s Enabling Technologies funding call provided funding for targeted innovations in inclusivity and interoperability.
  • Awardees received funding to support the implementation of their projects over a two-year period, with individual awards ranging from £50,000 to £270,000.
  • Many off-grid companies do not create products which have systems and components that can work together in the same environment.
  • This is an important feature of mature markets for a range of technologies around the world.
  • Around the world 840 million people live without access to electricity or appliances that help them earn an income or provide access to communications or clean cooking.
  • Vulnerable and marginalised groups such as women and girls, people with disabilities, children and stateless people are particularly affected.


For further information and request for any images please contact: 

Sarah Hambly, Energy Saving Trust 

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