Science and Technology for Humanitarian Action Challenges (HAC)

©ICRC, 2018, Mamadou Diawoye Dia

The challenges faced by humanitarian organizations in general and by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in particular are immense. In 2017, over 200 million people worldwide needed humanitarian assistance. Over the last decade, humanitarian crises have become both more frequent and more protracted. Therefore, EPFL and ETH Zurich are joining forces with the ICRC to explore innovative solutions.

The goal of the Science and Technology for Humanitarian Action Challenges is to support project-based research between EPFL researchers, ETH Zurich researchers, and the ICRC to develop effective solutions for a greater impact of humanitarian action.

The Humanitarian Tech Hub of the EssentialTech Centre is the managing office for this call. The EssentialTech Centre is part of the Vice Presidency for Research. Its mandate at EPFL is to harness science and technology to drive sustainable development, support humanitarian action, and foster peace. The Humanitarian Tech Hub was established jointly by the ICRC and EPFL in 2016. It is hosted at the EssentialTech Centre as one of its three pillars specifically seeking to explore science and technology solutions that can support humanitarian action.

ICRC priority areas

Some of the main issues, priorities and requirements for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for 2020-2022 can be found in this document. Researchers submitting an application for the Humanitarian Action Challenges are strongly encouraged to review the ICRC priority areas.

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A Humanitarian Action Challenge must be a clearly defined research question designed to increase the impact of humanitarian action or to enable humanitarian actors to address new and emerging challenges. This question must be related to (i) the research interests of an EPFL research group and (ii) the current or future work of the ICRC.

The objective of Humanitarian Action Challenges must be the development, testing, evaluation, or implementation of an innovative product, policy, or service – involving a technology (as part of the solution or as part of the research) that responds to a specific humanitarian challenge.

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Main eligibility criteria
  • The team must consist of at least one EPFL professor or MER as the main applicant and at least one partner from the ICRC.
  • In addition, it is encouraged (but not mandatory) to have at least one or more partners from a low- or lower-middle-income country and a partner from ETH Zurich. Partners from the entire ETH Domain (PSI, WSL, Empa, and Eawag) are also welcome to join.
  • If the main applicant is not a professor, the proposal must be accompanied by a letter of commitment of the host professor or the head of unit.
research funding opportunities
Available budget

Humanitarian Action Challenge Grants are between CHF 100’000 and CHF 300’000. Funded projects will last between 6 and 24 months.

The partners (academic and non-academic combined) must provide contributions corresponding to at least 25% of the requested grant.

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Call deadline

Proposal submissions are possible once per year. The first application deadline is on 12 October 2020 (23:59 CET).

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Please read carefully all documents available in the application toolkit to prepare your application.

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Submission platform

Access the submission platform here.


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