[EXTENDED] Call for Expression of Interest: Private Sector Engagement Initiatives

1. About the Tekwill Project

Tekwill has been designed as a national public private partnership between the Government of Moldova, USAID, Microsoft, and IBM to answer the needs of the ICT industry to close the gap of the human capital shortage, as well as support the development of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The initial goal of the project was to contribute to the extension of the Tekwill project as a sustainable network and deploy its programs on regional/national level. The project aims at determining the operation model of the network, determining business plans for the relevant created centers or partners in the regions, deploy scalable activities to connect an estimated of 150,000 people to ICT (school and university students, community, etc.), deploy entrepreneurship programs aiming at both scaling up existing programs, as well as create inclusive innovation platforms for the regions, with their respective specifics and potential to absorb/apply ICT. We envision a minimum 10,000 beneficiaries/year for each direction (education and entrepreneurship) As a result of the project, 2 main outcomes of the project are expected: more and better qualified skills and workforce developed leading to a stronger ICT industry in Moldova, as well as creating the premises for a Startup Moldova program driving opportunities for companies seeking capitalization.

The first phase of the project represented a USAID grant for Development matched by both cash and in-kind contributions provided by private and government partners that brought significant new resources, ideas, software, technologies and development activities, such as trainings, practical assignments, and mentorship. Private partners included multinational companies, IBM and Microsoft, but also members of the Information Technology and Communications Association (ATIC) comprised of local Information and Communications Technology (ICT) companies. Among government partners which have provided their support are the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research, the e-Government Center and the Technical University (TUM). Hosting the first Center in its premises, the Technical University of Moldova has contributed with resources for initial investment and maintenance costs during the startup phase.

On September 19, 2017 USAID/Moldova has entered into a partnership with the Government of Sweden to join forces in the establishment and creation of the ICT Excellence Center (Tekwill). It included an arrangement that governs the relationship between the Parties regarding the financing, implementation and reporting methods of the activity.

Tekwill has offically opened on March 15, 2017. During 2.5 years of the project activity, Tekwill has completed or supported 429 educational initiatives, and 388 entrepreneurship initiatives, transforming Tekwill into one of the most successful Tech initiatives in Moldova. It has helped over 389 teams to reach better results in business, create opportunities and seek investment. Altogether it trained and oriented over 43,000 people.

The next phase of the project is envisaged to fortify the existing Tekwill’s capacity, create linkages with other universities and expand the activities to the national level. New activities are planned to transform Tekwill into a strategic focal point for Moldova, in relation to boosting creativity, innovation and growth in the ICT sector. The Government of Moldova envisages the creation of a network of mini Tekwills around Chisinau and throuthout the country, keeping all main stakeholders (academia, private sector, donors, government) in the loop, aiming to reach high impact on the economy, as a whole. Few more universities are seeking to be part of this initiative and benefit of private sector and development partners involvement in upgrading their curricular content. At the same time, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Research is willing to promote the optional programs, developed by Tekwill, to be accessible in schools under the program „Tekwill in every school“. Throughout the implementing process, each program will be designed and developed in accordance with the context of the region, school or university specifics. All programs will be inclusive, involving different target groups such as children, women, students, etc.

The overarching goal of Tekwill as a network is to ensure maximum impact on Moldova’s economy through enhancing the entrepreneurial and educational capacity, as well as Research&Development potential of the higher education institutions in line with the industry needs; hence achieving quantitative and qualitative increase in qualified ICT professionals and ICT skills and nurturing successful technology startups based on modern ecosystem and world-class sales and marketing force. The project will expand the current areas of cooperation and continue to contribute to growing competitiveness of the ICT industry and of other economic sectors on a national level.

The project aims to:

1. Mitigate the human capital gap identified as the major problem for the ICT sector growth;

2. Expand successful Tekwill projects into the regions;

3. Impact the IT related educational system by contributing at nurturing STEM education;

4. Develop curricular and extracurricular educational programs to be adopted nationwide in partnership with leading private ICT Companies;

5. Expand existing Tekwill or Tekwill-related/supported programs to be adopted in the regions;

6. Assess the existing startup ecosystem and improve its investment opportunities;

7. Create linkages between ICT and non-ICT businesses;

8. Provide support to projects/startups in accessing the global market;

9. Create premises for favorable investment instruments such as seed funding, acceleration programs, venture funding, etc.;

10. Encourage and support tech community events;

11. Get affiliated to international hubs, innovation centers, camps (such as google campus, Station F, etc.);

12. Empower women/girls to participate in ICT educational programs and entrepreneurial activities;

13. Provide access to Tekwill content and programs for talented kids from underserved and remote areas, supporting career orientation, STEM educational programs, etc.

During the new project phase, ATIC intends to consolidate and extend various educational programs and trainings; targets being students, IT-professionals, those who look for a change in the career path, with a focus on market demands. The Center will continue to be the major attraction point for all the IT training programs, events, projects, and entrepreneurship initiatives. The set of initiatives and activities planned are training courses and events, followed by internship programs and entrepreneurship services. Over 3,000 participants are expected to benefit annually of the Center’s workforce programs, entrepreneurship and other capacity building programs. With an expansion model and business driven model, it is expected that the rate and number of beneficiaries will significantly grow.

Several factors are to be taken into consideration:

a) With current benefits under the law on IT Parks, the industry requires even more human capital than before due to considerable relocation to Moldova activity of various IT companies and higher retention grade of local companies in the country.

b) The demographic condition of the Republic of Moldova is degrading, therefore a dedicated campaign and activities on quality and internationally accredited programs should be envisaged.

Overall Objective:

One of the directions of the ICTEC project will be supporting third party initiatives, which aim at expansion of educational, innovative and entrepreneurial opportunities and reaching out different regions, with potential for the ICT sector. Considering the expansion of Tekwill programs in the regions, the project will delegate private companies to examine and propose the most relevant actions, which would permit the creation of new pools of IT specialists and of new IT companies in the regions.

1.1 Private sector engagement initiative

Main goal of the Call is to support to private sector companies and engage with them in accelerated achievement of ICT development goals, mainly through direct and matching cash and knowledge support provided to companies for developing and implementing innovative initiatives, aiming at attracting more people to IT, raising industry profile, educating more IT professionals, initiatives and/or services aiming at connecting IT with non-IT sectors, for an increased transparency, further sector development, entrepreneurship support, community development initiatives run and driven by private sector and/or provide support for sustainable development based on digital innovation.

Main objectives for the call:

A. Engage with private sector for developing and implementing initiatives, products, services or solutions aligned to the goal of the action, with measurable and positive impact on the quality of life; main focus is on new solutions underpinned by ICT sector in areas of major interest for the private sector, i.e. education and skills, entrepreneurship, link of IT to non-IT, increasing efficiency and productivity.

B. Measure and make visible the impact of the new or existing initiatives, products, services and solutions, to support private sector engagement for sustainable development and attract more talented people in IT, support the entrepreneurship, the IT sector growth, the promotion of digital innovation in different areas, the transparency in public institutions, other that may reach the provided goal.

1.2 Types of innovation projects supported

The preferred projects applying to the call are innovative initiatives aligned to the objectives stated above. The initiative should meet the following criteria:

IT based or IT oriented (technical solution and/or soft program promoting IT and digital innovation);
Innovative (i.e. new or existing on the market solutions with the possibility to be improved);
Scalable and replicable within a short period of time on the same market/country, or exportable;
Feasible (i.e. the solution does not require changes in the current legislation and could be anchored within the existing legal framework in certain period), there is evidence that prototype is technologically and economically feasible;
Collaborative, the activities should be tailored to other sectors (i.e. ICT and education, IT and non-IT sectors, support of entrepreneurship development, other);
With measurable impact on the ICT Industry or other sector growth;
Regional inclusion.

Examples of possible eligible applications and constraints that companies could eventually focus on are talent management and retention of skilled labor force; access to finance for prototyping of new products and services that require collaborative innovation; export promotion through innovative approaches and other. The supported projects are in phase of innovation development and are based on a comprehensive business plan, addressing the identified specific challenges and demonstrating high potential in terms of access to market and company/industry competitiveness and growth. The projects should already have previously developed innovative concept or prototype which demonstrates a clear technological and economic viability. The innovative concept should represent considerable novelty to the national or global market (e.g. new products, processes, services or market application).

In innovation development projects, the examples of financing activities may include prototyping, upscaling, design, performance verification, testing, demonstration, development of pilot lines, validation for market replication, IP protection and other activities aimed at bringing innovation idea (product, process, service, etc.) to investment readiness and market introduction. The financed activities would also partly cover the costs of necessary tailored training, restructuring of the organization or production, absorbing new technologies, access to business networks/clusters, adoption of new marketing tools, and helping access new markets and all similar activities necessery to finish pre-commercial phase of the innovation development.

1.3 Amount of awards

The awards will cover up to 25,000 USD (co-funded by USAID and Sweden under the Tekwill Project) or maximum fifty percent (50%) of the total project cost. Such contribution will be equally divided between the companies in APPLICANT or depending on the specific requirements of the collaborative project. The same is valid in case of the matching contribution, which shall be decided internally by the APPLICANT and distribution to be presented to the Tekwill Project / USAID/Sweden. The Project may decide to finance higher amounts in case of insufficient applications and high impact of the initiative proposed.

Co-financing of at least fifty percent (50%) of the total project budget is to be secured by the APPLICANT from their own investments or from other sources, in cash or in-kind with respective proof of resources spent or provided. Acceptable co-financing includes companies own investment, private investors, loan financing or other private sector cash contributions and public financing or co-financing. The total amount of Awards cannot be increased during the Project.

1.4 Duration of the project

The project and the project budget must be designed so to be completed within 12 months. However, the project may be extended for a maximum of additional six (6) months, under exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the Tekwill Project team.

1.5 Eligible applicants

Eligible applicants to the call are:

– The eligible APPLICANT is Moldovan privately owned (no restrictions related to local vs international companies, established at least one (1) year before the date of applying, operating in Information and Communication Technology industry only.

– The APPLICANT is a legal entity from private sector, registered under the Moldovan Jurisdiction.

– The APPLICANT must not possess outstanding debts in terms of public contributions.

– The Applicants must not have accumulated losses above the equity value.

– The Applicants and individual owners have not been convicted for crimes connected to economic activities.

2 Application process

2.1 Description of the application process

The Private Sector Engagement Initiative will be conducted through an open selection procedure in two stages (Pre-application and Full Application).

The selection process is designed according to the principles of merit, transparency, equality and rational use of funds. Innovation projects are submitted exclusively to Tekwill Project. The innovation projects are selected against the clear eligibility and selection criteria, of which latter are assessed by the experienced and independent evaluators. The applications which fulfill all eligibility criteria, and which satisfy the selection criteria at most will be proposed for financing. They are in final phase assessed and ranked by the Independent Evaluation Committee and, subject to the availability of funds. The best ranked applications that can fulfill legal requirements are offered to sign Award Agreement.

2.2 Instructions to the application process

APPLICANT apply through the open call published by the Tekwill Project on their platform(s). There are two stages of application process implemented consecutively: 1st: Assessment of the Concept Notes, and 2nd: Assessment of the full Projects Plans. Only those applications that were positively evaluated at the 1st stage and invited to write full Project Plans are eligible to apply to 2nd stage.

While preparing the Application following rules apply:

A. There is only one Application per APPLICANT allowed;

B. Re-submission of modified and improved Applications is not allowed;

C. Only Applications submitted using the online Tekwill/ATIC platform will be considered;

D. Deadlines of both application stages are to be strictly respected;

E. In evaluation process, only complete Applications will be accepted. Documents required by hard copies must not be sent by mail to the Tekwill Project before so requested, if the Award is offered to the Applicant.

2.3 Project Application Documentation

2.3.1 Pre-application: Concept Note

In the pre-application stage, the APPLICANT should submit only a filled out pre-defined form of Concept Note (attached, Annex A), where the concept of the innovation project is shortly and concisely described (including the idea and the potential market) and the company and the development team shortly presented. In the pre-application stage, there are no other documents required.

Applicants shall submit their pre-application to participate and propose concepts until December 27, 2019 via e-mail cdamaschin@ict.md cc achirita@ict.md.

Applicants shall submit their offers in hard-copy and/or electronically.

Hard copy offers must be received no later than December 27, 2019, 17:00 at the following address:
In attention of Mrs. Ana Chirita
Tekwill Senior Project Coordinator Str. Studentilor 9/11

Emailed offers must be received by the same time and date at the following address:
In attention of Corina Damaschin, Tekwill Project Manager
and cc Ana Chirita, Strategic Projects Director/ Tekwill Project Coordinator

Applicants are responsible for ensuring that their expression of interests are received in accordance with the instructions stated herein. Late applications may be considered at the discretion of ATIC.

Questions regarding the technical or administrative requirements of this Call for Expression of interest may be submitted no later than December 11, 2019, 18:00 local Chisinau time by email to achirita@ict.md. Questions must be submitted in writing; phone calls will not be accepted. Questions and requests for clarification—and the responses thereto—that ATIC believes may be of interest to other Applicants will be circulated to all pre-application recipients who have indicated an interest in the current call.

Only the written answers issued by ATIC will be considered official and carry weight in the Pre-application process and subsequent evaluation. Any verbal information received from employees of ATIC or any other entity should not be considered as an official response to any questions regarding this pre-application round.


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