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Innovation is central to DFAT's ability to deliver on Foreign Policy White Paper commitments. Innovation enables us to operate effectively in an increasingly competitive, contested and unpredictable world. Innovation is about thinking and acting in ways that will make DFAT a global leader in problem-solving and seizing opportunities. It is the practice of trying new things, adapting what did not work and then trying again until we have found an approach that works significantly better than current practice. It requires us to be open to new knowledge and practice, recognising that we may need to source outside skills and expertise to achieve our objectives. External collaboration will also lead to inclusive private sector-led growth and support aid for trade opportunities.

DFAT's Innovation Strategy 2018-21


DFAT delivers a range of programs that incorporate innovative practices and approaches across the development portfolio. Australia's Partnerships for Recovery strategy emphasises the need for innovative approaches – to work in new ways, and with new levels of flexibility, to respond to the swiftly evolving international context caused by COVID-19. Across all sectors, Australia's development programs are increasingly incorporating innovative components to achieve health, education and gender outcomes, to name a few. DFAT also manages several programs dedicated to cross-sectoral innovation, harnessing lessons learned to achieve greater impact across Australia's development assistance portfolio.

Global Innovation Fund (GIF)

GIF is a non-profit, social-first investment fund that acts as a ‘venture capital for fragile places'. GIF finances dynamic innovators and entrepreneurs whose cost-effective, evidence-based solutions have the potential to measurably improve the lives of millions of people living on less than $5 a day. Australia is currently supporting GIF activities that respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Indo-Pacific.

Scaling Frontier Innovation

The Scaling Frontier Innovation (SFI) Program supports innovative social enterprises in the Indo Pacific to scale their development impact, with a strong focus on economic recovery and climate resilience.

LAUNCH Food – Pacific Island Food Revolution

LAUNCH Food has supported innovators and entrepreneurs with big ideas to enable people in the Indo-Pacific to make healthy food choices and address the problem of malnutrition. A successful LAUNCH Food participant, the Pacific Island Food Revolution (PIFR) is a reality TV cooking show that uses behavioural insights to influence social norms to tackle the non-communicable disease epidemic in the Pacific Islands and encourage healthy eating.

Innovation Resource Facility

The Innovation Resource Facility provides the Australian development program with efficient access to high quality technical advisory services in frontier fields of aid and development. The IRF has been designed to provide access, more broadly, to non-development-related innovation skills to enhance DFAT and other Commonwealth Government departments' innovation capabilities.

The IRF is managed by DT Global Australia on behalf of DFAT.

MIT Solve Youth, Skills and the Workforce of the Future Challenge

The MIT SOLVE Challenge on the Workforce of the Future supports organisations that teach disadvantaged youth in the Indo-Pacific skills for the workforce of the future. From the initial eight Challenge winners, the projects supports two of the most successful winners to scale their projects. In Cambodia, 40K has signed an MOU with the Government of Cambodia to improve English learning across up to seven provinces. In Indonesia, Ruangguru's education technology start-up has established a Skills Academy benefiting more than 680,000 youths in the first three months of COVID-19 pandemic.

This investment is a partnership between DFAT, the Atlassian Foundation (of Australian software company Atlassian) and MIT SOLVE (of Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator and Seedstars World Competition – Pacific Islands

The GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund is an innovation-focused fund for mobile-technology start-ups that is jointly funded with the UK Government. The Ecosystem Accelerator identifies new business models to achieve scale and demonstrate how to better use mobile technology to deliver development impact. Through partnership with GSMA, businesses in the Indo-Pacific region such as eFishery and Qlue in Indonesia, Karzo in Myanmar and Sehat Kahani in Pakistan are expanding.

In partnership with GSMA and Seedstars, the Seedstars World Competitions were held in Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Samoa in 2019 and 2020 to showcase potential for investment in Pacific island countries to the world. Seedstars World is the world's largest start-up competition in emerging markets.

Further opportunities

Have an idea that could deliver transformational and impactful change in the Indo-Pacific region? If you have a solution with the potential to deliver development outcomes more effectively, efficiently or inclusively, there are a number of avenues for you to pursue.

  • New ideas from any organisation or individual, in any partner country can be submitted to the Global Innovation Fund
  • Organisations with an innovation should contact their local Embassy or High Commission in the first instance for advice on partnership opportunities, provided that they are located in a country where Australia has a bilateral aid program
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