New £15.3 million funding injection to support African science

14 August 2012

African science is to receive a £15.3 million boost thanks to a new partnership between the Royal Society and the Department for International Development (DFID). The funding will help setup a programme aimed at strengthening research and training capacity across sub-Saharan Africa by creating sustainable scientific networks.

The Royal Society-DFID Africa Capacity Building Initiative will bring together scientists working across Africa with UK-based researchers. The initiative will focus on three priority areas that have been identified: water and sanitation; renewable energy; and soil-related research. The research consortia will ideally be cross-disciplinary, combining different types of expertise on a specific theme.

Phase one will see 20 start-up grants of £25,000 awarded, enabling interested parties to assemble research consortia and prepare applications for the subsequent programme grant scheme. A single round of applications will be opened on 1st November of this year.  In phase two up to 10 awards of just over £1.2 million over five years will be made. The awards will support research consortia consisting of one UK lab and three African labs. The first round of applications will be opened in 2013, the second in 2014.

The new scheme builds on the success of the Leverhulme – Royal Society Africa Awards launched in 2008 and emphasises the Royal Society’s already strong commitment to capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa.

Commenting on the Royal Society - DFID funding partnership, Professor Martyn Poliakoff, Foreign Secretary of the Royal Society, said:

“The ability to share scientific knowledge and expertise is vitally important to development in Africa and the world over. The Royal Society is delighted to be partnering with DFID in what is a very important scheme. Not only will we be strengthening Africa-UK research links but more importantly we will assist in creating sustainable and valuable relationships between African institutions.”

Just like the Leverhulme - Royal Society Africa Awards, the DFID funded initiative is a direct result of discussions with stakeholders from the continent since 2007, and is a response to the demand and need to foster collaborations and networks amongst African research institutions.

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development Stephen O’Brien said:

"The lack of access to the best, latest science and research poses a real barrier to progress and development for the world’s poorest countries. DFID’s funding for this initiative will help to develop a new generation of African scientists with the training and expertise to identify and address global problems.

Working with the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific academy, we will build scientific capacity at individual, organisational and institutional levels. Fellowships, training and mentoring will develop talented young African experts able to tackle crucial development problems in water and sanitation, renewable energy, crop and soil research."

The funding has been welcomed by scientists working in Africa. Professor Ahmadou Lamine Ndiaye, President of the African Academy of Sciences, said:

"I wish to congratulate the Royal Society and DIFID for this development. I am excited to hear this news in the hope and expectation that it will be useful to our African scientists most of whom work in facility-constrained environments. I hope that African scientists and pan-African scientific organizations will be involved in setting the agenda for the collaborative research with their UK-based counterparts".

The programme will be officially launched at the Royal Society on 1st November 2012.