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[ACCRA] A scheme aiming to build research capacity in Ghana and Tanzania by supporting promising individual scientists is entering its second phase.

The UK-based Leverhulme Trust, which funded phase one of the Leverhulme Royal Society African Awards in 2008, has provided US$5.4 million in new funding to build on the fellowship scheme by also offering PhD studentships and the opportunity for cross-continent collaboration.

Phase one of the scheme saw 33 researchers in the priority fields of agriculture, water and sanitation, basic health research, biodiversity and energy receive three-year bursaries — costing around US$5.2 million in total — to carry out bilateral collaborative research projects with UK scientists.

The new phase will fund 15 researchers in similar fields. Candidates will be shortlisted by July 2012 and start their fellowships in March 2013.  

Francis Momade, Ghana's lead researcher on the scheme, said the first stage of the initiative was already bearing fruit.

"The collaboration has given rise to linking research directly to development, building systems that are relevant and the deployment of the use of local materials in cost-effective manner," he said.

PhD studentships of up to US$16,000 per annum will now be available, as will the option of collaborating with researchers in African countries other than Ghana and Tanzania.

The funding, up to US$290,000 over the three years, is intended to be spent on new equipment, maintenance and repair of existing equipment, training of junior researchers, travel and subsistence costs for fieldwork, as well as research and training in general.

Lorna Casselton, foreign secretary and vice-president of Royal Society, said higher education issues are pivotal for the development goals of nations.

"Making money available for research by fulfilling the African Union-endorsed target of one per cent gross domestic product (GDP) investment in research and technology innovation will be absolutely vital to reach developmental goals," she said.

The society plans to replicate the fellowship in other African countries in time, said Casselton.

Water and sanitation expert Jerry Asigbey from the Ghanaian Community Water and Sanitation Agency said North–South collaboration between scientists and researchers will leapfrog research outcomes to people and encourage networking, sharing best practice and providing value for money.