Scientists in Ghana and Tanzania are eligible for more than £3 million (nearly US$6 million) in funds, a new partnership of two British organisations announced this week (7 July).
The UK-based Leverhulme Trust will fund research projects in the two African countries with the help of the Royal Society.
The programme will run on bilateral lines, with both Ghanaian and Tanzanian researchers collaborating with colleagues in the UK, according to Bill Hartnett of the Royal Society press office.
The new 'Leverhulme Royal Society Africa Awards' will provide up to US$300,000 for each of the 18 research projects, with the remaining money covering administration costs and meetings.
The partnership's five research priorities are "agriculture, water, sanitation, basic human health research, and biodiversity and energy", Lorna Casselton, foreign secretary of the Royal Society, said in a press statement.
Gratian Bamwenda of the Commission for Science and Technology and Wen Kilama of the African Malaria Network, both based in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, are among the Africa-based partners involved in the project.
"To ensure the scheme is tailored to the needs of Africa, researchers from Tanzania and Ghana met with the Royal Society to identify what they would like a partnership scheme to offer," Casselton said.
"We told them what we needed — the single most important thing is to develop manpower and technology," says Ohene Adjei, deputy director of Ghana's Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine, who participated in the discussions.
The partnerships will "build capacity, so laboratory technicians might learn modern molecular biology techniques, for example," Adjei told SciDev.Net.
Adjei says he intends to apply for a grant with colleagues from the UK's Liverpool Institute of Tropical Medicine in order to find new and faster-working drugs for parasite-driven river blindness, which currently requires years of treatment with the drug ivermectin.
The West African offices of the International Institute of Water Management, based in Accra, Ghana, also intend to apply for a grant, says Adjei.
Applications for the grants will open in October 2008. The first six grants will be awarded by May 2009, with the remaining dozen due in 2010 and 2011.