Mini-Grid Innovation Lab

Innovating to provide more power, to more people, at less cost

Who are We?

We are Africa’s first R&D fund exclusively focused on testing new business model innovations for mini-grids. 

Over half a billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. Mini-grids are the least-cost solution for providing access to ~260 million people.

But mini-grids have historically hit three barriers to scale:

  • Business model economics
  • Regulation
  • Investment

CrossBoundary’s Mini-Grid Innovation Lab addresses each of these barriers:

  1. Testing business model innovations and scaling those that are most effective
  2. Working with partners to enable governments to implement mini-grid solutions where they are the least cost option for providing electricity to rural communities
  3. Sharing evidence of successful innovations to attract investment to the mini-grid sector

To date, the Lab has launched 11 prototypes with 27 developers and 1 public utility, across 9 countries, with tests now live in the field across 118 sites.

How We Work


The Lab convenes 27 private sector mini-grid developers across Sub-Saharan Africa including from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia, and Sierra Leone, in person or virtually every quarter to brainstorm new innovations

Commissioning ceremony for a CrossBoundary Energy Access supported mini-grid implemented by PowerGen in Rokota, Niger State, Nigeria. Photo Credit: PowerGen


The Lab works directly with these developers to design the innovation. Each innovation has its own study design, which defines the hypotheses, data, implementation, budget, timeline, and potential risks


Developers test the innovation on the ground at operating mini-grid sites and share consumption, revenue, cost, and other prototype-specific data with the Lab. The Lab independently conducts baseline and end-line surveys with a sample of customers

Analyze and Share

The Lab analyzes the data from field tests, customer surveys, and mini-grid financials to understand the innovation’s impact on key business model drivers, and publishes the findings in its Innovation Insights series, made publicly available through CrossBoundary’s website for free to the entire sector


For promising innovations, the Lab refines the innovation based on findings from data and feedback from developers


Once proven, the Lab identifies the technology, funding, operational capabilities, government support, and relationships developers need to successfully integrate the innovation into their standard operations, and brings in partners to meet those needs

Our Key Capabilities

We are developing the evidence base and innovations to deliver the Modern Energy Minimum (MEM) of 1,000kWh per person per year to ~260M Africans

A user-centered design unit

We relentlessly drive end-users interests – whether customers, developers, utilities, or governments

A platform for rapid iteration

We take ideas from conception to launch to scale rapidly, leveraging tested and proven systems and processes

A data and analytics hub

We hold Africa’s largest repository of mini-grid data, and have a dedicated in-house data analytics team to evaluate the impact of innovations