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 2020, almost 71 million people were displaced because of conflict and insecurity, a number not reached since WWII. Extreme climate events, such as floods, storms and droughts, are on the rise, thereby increasing the vulnerability of people already suffering from conflict [1]. The COVID19 pandemic is further jeopardizing the hard-fought gains in access to healthcare and poverty reduction of the past decades. Therefore, EPFL and ETH Zurich are joining forces with the ICRC to explore innovative solutions to such crises.

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 EssentialTech Centre is the managing office for this call. The EssentialTech Centre is part of the Vice Presidency for Academic Affairs. Its mandate is to harness science and technology to drive sustainable development, support humanitarian action, and foster peace. The Humanitarian Tech Division is one of the three pillars of the EssentialTech Centre, and it specifically seeks to promote science and technology solutions that can support humanitarian action.

The list of awarded projects from the first call for proposals is available here.

[1] Global Humanitarian Overview 2021, UN-OCHA, 2021


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, in line with the current or future work of the ICRC. The projects must be intended to develop, test, evaluate, or implement an innovative product, service, or policy, which involves a technology (as part of the research or the solution).

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Main eligibility criteria
  • The team must consist of at least one main applicant from EPFL, who holds a PhD, and at least one partner from the ICRC.
  • In addition, the team is encouraged to have one partner from ETH Zurich and at least one partner from a low- or lower-middle-income country. Institutions from the rest of the ETH Domain (PSI, WSL, Empa, and Eawag) are welcome to join as co-applicants, and other institutions as partners.
  • If the main applicant is not a professor or a financially independent senior scientist (MER) or financially independent adjunct professor (professeur titulaire), the application must include a letter of commitment from the host professor or the head of unit.
research funding opportunities
Available budget
  • Funding is available for 6-month to 24-month projects. The granted amounts will be between CHF 100’000 and CHF 300’000.
  • Funding covers the project costs of the EPFL main applicant and of potential co-applicants from the ETH domain (excluding ETH Zurich, for which funding must be requested through the ETH Zurich call for proposals).
  • Applicants (including potential co-applicants) must provide 25% of the requested amount as matching funds.

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Call deadline

Proposal submissions are possible once per year. The application deadline for the second call for proposals is on 15 July 2021 (17:00 CEST).

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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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