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[KIGALI] Preparations are underway to launch the first endowment fund for Rwandan researchers in early 2009.

Romain Murenzi, the minister in charge of science and technological research, says the fund will be part of the 2009 budget and will be run by a team from a variety of ministries and research institutes.

"The beneficiaries of the funds will be selected on the basis of their projects and the direct impact of their research on the population, mainly rural communities," Murenzi told SciDev.Net.

He says the fund will also consider the business potential of proposals. Priority areas include biotechnology, agriculture, telemedicine and renewable energy.

"Researchers have to prove their capacity to deliver the goods and services to make the country move up," he says.

It is unclear exactly how much money will be allocated to the fund or when applications will be open. Murenzi was unable to say if the funding will be an addition to the current research budgets allocated by separate ministries.

Nevertheless, Rwandan scientists welcomed the extra funding.

"This is the first ever support the government has provided specifically to the entire research sector," says Fidèle Rurihose, director of the fundamental and applied sciences research programme at the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research in Butare, Rwanda.

Rurihose is a member of the Nile Basin Capacity Building Network for River Engineering, working on a pilot project to fit mini-hydropower plants at dams along Rwanda's rural rivers (see Rwandan researchers highlight mini hydropower).

Rurihose says that, until now, each researcher has had to apply for funds from individual ministries, making such multidisciplinary team efforts difficult, but the new direct funding would enable teams to apply for funds collectively.