14 August 2012 | EN | FR
The fund will provide start-up money for new collaborations among labs
[LONDON] A £15.3 million (US$24 million) fund to build links between African research laboratories and strengthen their research capacity through mentoring has been launched by the Royal Society (the UK's science academy) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).
The aim is to provide equipment and training for African scientists, and to establish researcher exchange programmes between the United Kingdom and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Start-up grants of up to US$39,000 will assist the formation of research consortia, and larger grants of almost US$2 million will then support specific research programmes over a five-year period.
To qualify for the larger grants, projects must involve a consortium of one UK laboratory and three African laboratories.
"At the moment, labs in Sub-Saharan Africa are isolated. For example, it is surprisingly difficult for a lab in South Africa to work with a lab in Ethiopia, as the funding streams aren't there," Martyn Poliakoff, foreign secretary and vice-president of the Royal Society, told SciDev.Net. "There are also physical barriers, such as the need to fly between different countries."
"We hope the initiative will foster collaboration between these labs and help them to use their limited resources better. The UK lab will adopt a mentoring role, as it will have facilities that others don't have, and experience of working as part of a research consortium."
The Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative will mainly fund research focusing on water and sanitation, renewable energy, and soil, and it will encourage a cross-disciplinary approach to research.
It will build on the "extremely effective" Leverhulme-Royal Society Africa Awards, which were launched in 2008 to support research collaborations between the UK and Ghana or Tanzania, according to Poliakoff. But it will also expand the number of countries involved, and include French-speaking countries.
"The Leverhulme awards and the Royal Society initiative will run in parallel, so the two schemes can learn from one another," Poliakoff added.
"We hope that this will encourage other funding agencies and countries to promote capacity building for research in Africa," Poliakoff said.
John Omiti, principal policy analyst at the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, welcomed the funding initiative: "This is very important in [helping] energise African scientists to pursue research that is relevant and sensitive to specific priorities in different scientific disciplines".
"This [emphasises a] renewed international interest in Africa," he said, adding that it "would also attract scientists in the African diaspora to focus, share and exchange scientific knowledge with scientists and researchers in Africa".
But Omiti also warned that the extent of the fund's positive effect on science in Africa will depend on how effectively the money is allocated to research that impacts on real problems on the ground. The dissemination of research results and their use both to inform policy and to assist people in moving "from misery into liveable conditions" was also important, Omiti said.
He added that he hoped the initiative would become sustainable and not just a "single shot at invigorating African scientific research".
Applications for grants will open in November 2012.
Additional reporting by Ochieng' Ogodo.
Catherine Sakala ( Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock | Zambia )
20 August 2012
Wow, I think this is really encouraging and will help to develop technologies tailored to Africa. I do, however, hope that people in charge of passing policies, such as politicians, are made aware of the importance of research. I think most of the problems that we have are as a result of solutions that match the problems scientifically, but where the implementation is not scientific. They need to be on board.I also hope that we will see younger scientists being groomed to pave the way for continuity.
Nawaz Sharif ( United States of America )
12 September 2012
Developing country scientists, researchers and policymakers have to be realistic in terms of expectations regarding development aid from the technologically advanced countries. Here is the obvious rationale. Whether we like it or not, every developing country is now a member of the interdependent globalized economic system. To be a prosperous member of the now dominant science and technology driven knowledge economies of the world, and for sustainable high-skill-jobs creation, every developing country needs to specialize in a few very meticulously selected emerging-technology-centric innovations in goods and services by its own enterprises that can earn “dollars” in the fiercely competitive global marketplace.
Governance of such specialized industrialization, as the key to deal with increased globalization, means each and every country has to become the world’s best in a few globally sought “goods and services” offered by its product-process manufacturing companies in the private sector. And, since “technological innovation is the strategic weapon for international market competition in the current globalized setting,” no one could realistically expect “technological innovation capacity building fund” to be an integral part of “development aid” from their competitors. If any relevant developing country organization is interested to host an intensive course on “technological innovation governance,” please contact me and please visit my blog on technological innovation: http://mns-technologicalinnovation.blogspot.com/
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