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Germany's Volkswagen Foundation is launching a funding initiative that seeks to increase the engagement of young African researchers in collaborative projects with European scientists by asking them to define jointly their research topics.

The 'Knowledge for Tomorrow' programme aims to build capacity and provide sustainable support for academic researchers in sub-Saharan Africa. But unlike many other funding initiatives, the new programme does set out by defining the specific areas or topics of research that it is prepared to support. 

"Researchers in Africa want to define their own research goals through a cooperative process," says Antje Gunsenheimer, a programme manager at the Hanover-based foundation. "We want real collaboration [between German and African researchers], not just the type of collaboration that only exists on paper."

The foundation will run a series of exploratory workshops next year, mainly in Africa, to establish the critical issues that need to be tackled, and to promote dialogue between researchers from the two regions. Similar workshops will be held every two or three years after that in order to ensure that the funding initiative can be moulded to reflect new concerns.

"The idea is to make a really flexible funding initiative that can react rapidly to issues," says Gunsenheimer.

The foundation has not yet revealed how much money will be available through the new programme. "The size of the funding available depends on what comes forward [through the workshops]," says Beate Reinhold of the foundation's press and public relations department. "We don't have a fixed budget."

The foundation provides funds of around €100 million to a variety of initiatives each year. On average, it gives around €3 million to each funding programme.

Further information about the funding programme will be available on the Foundation's website,, at the end of July.

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