Grants and Funding

Global Innovation through Science and Technology(GIST) Catalyst Virtual Pitch Competition 2021

The U.S. Department of State is excited to announce the 2021 Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Catalyst pitch competition will be taking place virtually during Global Entrepreneurship Week (8-14 November, 2021).

Who Should Participate?

The answer is simple: you should. But the reason is more complex. Now, more than ever, the challenges humanity faces seem insurmountable. From global health and clean energy to water security and food scarcity, we as a species have never been so in need of creative minds to present a sustainable and equitable path forward. Here at GIST, we know that the solutions to today’s most pressing global issues lie within the minds of young innovators from all over the world. This year, as GIST turns 10, we are elevating the growing need for innovators to not just be successful, but also to make a significant impact toward solving the growing perils our world is presented with. Our continued existence depends on it.

The past year has been difficult for startups across the globe, which is why GIST is providing this opportunity to showcase their innovations that will change the way our world functions. The GIST Catalyst Virtual Pitch Competition will be a chance for innovators to showcase their startup, perfect their pitch, and get one-on-one mentorship and training from top experts. The semi-final and final pitches will be live virtual events–meaning influential individuals and investors from around the world will be able to easily watch and engage with GIST entrepreneurs. There will also be a public voting component, so that everyone can have their voice heard. Startup funding will be granted to the top startups after the final pitches.

What is GIST Catalyst?

GIST Catalyst offers young STEM entrepreneurs the opportunity to elevate their pitch and showcase their scale-up on a global stage, while receiving valuable mentorship from American entrepreneurs and academics who are leaders in the field of entrepreneurship.

Catalyst also provides participating entrepreneurs with the opportunity to increase the visibility of their scale-up. Because the live semi-final and final pitches will be held on a virtual platform, the viewers will not be limited geographically. This is an opportunity to promote your scale-up to your community, network, and the world – showcasing your innovation and attracting support. GIST Catalyst has helped innovators secure funding for their ventures, collaborate with the U.S. private sector, and build new partnerships. Launched during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017 in Hyderabad, India and repeated in 2019 at the GES in The Hague, Netherlands, Catalyst gave more than 60 entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their scale-ups to high-impact investors, policy makers, and leaders in the U.S. private sector, and compete for generous startup resources.

How to Apply

Applications for this opportunity open on 2 August, 2021 and close on 22 September, 2021.

All entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 40 from GIST economies are encouraged to apply. Technologies that address global challenges through Agriculture InnovationsClean Climate & Energy InnovationsGlobal Health InnovationsWater Solution Innovations are particularly encouraged to apply. Please note, you will need to make a 90 second pitch video and use a video hosting service such as YouTube for your GIST Catalyst application. This video will be used during the adjudication, allowing judges the chance to learn more about you and your scale-up. Please ensure your pitch video is concise, high-quality and no longer than 90 seconds. All pitch videos need to be in English.

An expert panel will review all entries, then determine which Contenders will proceed to the Judging round. Expert Judges will select the Contenders who will then move on to the semifinals live pitches and Investors Showcase (see below). Semifinalists will be organized into five groups by region. Semifinalists will participate in virtual live pitch sessions in front of expert panels. The top startup from each of the semifinals will move on to the culminating Catalyst Pitch Competition Finals.

Eligibility Requirements

  • All pitch videos and live pitches must be done entirely in English.
  • All entries should be at the Idea or Startup stage.
  • The pitching entrepreneur must be between the ages of 18 and 40 and from a GIST economy.
  • Special consideration will be given to startups who address challenges through Agriculture Innovations, Clean Climate & Energy Innovations, Global Health Innovations, Water Solution Innovations.
  • Special consideration will be given to startups whose solutions address the needs of traditionally underrepresented groups.


Participants of the 2021 GIST Catalyst Virtual Pitch Competition will be competing for tens of thousands of dollars in mini grants and entrepreneurial resource prizes, the opportunity for mentorship and training, a chance to showcase their innovative solution to the entire GIST community including investors, and the prestige that comes with every GIST event. 

1st Place: $15k

2nd Place: $12k

3rd  Place: $10k

Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur: $8500
Spirit of GIST: $1500
People’s Choice: $1500 

GIST Catalyst Investor Showcase

What’s even more exciting than the possibility of winning the GIST Catalyst Virtual Pitch Competition? How about getting to pitch directly to a group of top U.S. investors? That’s right, the GIST Catalyst Investor Showcase will bring U.S. investors together with the 25 GIST Catalyst Virtual Pitch Competition semifinalists for an exciting 2-part event. Each semifinalist will have 5 minutes to pitch and take questions from investors. This is an exclusive, invitation-only event for semifinalist participants only. Dates and times will be announced once semifinalists have been selected!

Important Dates

Applications Open: 2 August, 2021 (Close 22 September)

Judging of Contenders: 27 September – 13 October

Semifinals Live Virtual Pitching: 1-5 November

Finals: 9 November (Live Pitching Finals)


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