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Call for proposals to support Africa’s science granting councils in funding and managing research and innovation

SGCI is inviting project proposals to support science granting councils in funding and managing research and innovation projects.

Through a new Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) partnership with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and IDRC, the Science Granting Councils Initiative is calling for proposals from organizations with proven experience and track records for private sector partnerships.

1.  Executive summary  

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI) invites project proposals from organizations (including think tanks, institutes, universities and agencies) with proven experience and track records to support science granting councils in funding and managing research and innovation projects. Through a new SGCI partnership with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and IDRC, funding of up to CAD $8,200,000 will be available for this work over a period of approximately 34 months. IDRC will enter into an agreement with the successful organization.

The project’s background, context, potential objectives and approach are provided below. Applicants are expected to use this information only as a guide in developing their proposals. Proposals should not be limited to the points outlined below and originality/creativity will be among the key evaluation criteria.   

2.  Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa   

Science granting councils (and related organizations such as Commissions and Funds) perform crucial functions that contribute to the effective and efficient functioning of national science systems. These functions vary from country to country but include the following: disbursement of grants for research, development and innovation, building research capacity through scholarships and bursaries, setting and monitoring research agendas and priorities, issuing research permits, formulating/revising national science, technology and innovation (STI) policies, providing policy advice to governments, managing bilateral/ multilateral STI agreements, and monitoring and assessing the impacts of publicly funded research and research funded from other sources.   

Box 1: Participating SGCI countries

Botswana, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe

SGCI has been supported by several funders since 2015, namely the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, IDRC, South Africa’s National Research Fund, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the German Research Foundation and most recently the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. The focus of the Initiative has been on strengthening the capacities of councils to support research and evidence-based policies that can contribute to economic and social development. The councils from 15 countries (Box 1) have been actively involved in the Initiative. Nigeria joined the Initiative mid-2021, bringing the total number of SGCI councils to 16. There is an opportunity for Sierra Leone to join in the near future. 

The SGCI initially focused on strengthening the ability of the councils to (a) manage research; (b) design and monitor research programs and formulate and implement policies based on the use of STI indicators; (c) support knowledge exchange with the private sector; and (d) establish partnerships among councils and with other science system actors. In its current second phase (SGCI-2), work with the councils in these areas has deepened and broadened, with additional attention to research excellence, strategic communications/uptake of knowledge outputs, and gender equality and inclusivity (Box 2). Councils received funding to manage research calls and have drawn on their enhanced capacities to promote collaborative research projects and networking.  

Box 2: SGCI-2 themes

Theme 1: Strengthen the ability of science granting councils in research management

Theme 2: Strengthen the capacity of science granting councils to use data and evidence in policy and decision-making

Theme 3: Supporting the ability of science granting councils to fund research and innovation

Theme 4: Supporting strategic communications, uptake of knowledge outputs and networking

Theme 5: Strengthen the capacities of science granting councils in gender equality and inclusivity   

3.  Research themes and framework   

During a consultative meeting held in preparation for the launch of SGCI-2, the councils agreed on three broad research themes (Box 3). In a subsequent SGCI call for applications, the councils identified specific priority research topics in their countries. The research projects supported under the call covered two broad categories: (a) collaborative projects involving two or more councils and (b) projects that promote private sector engagement. Gender and inclusion were integrated as a cross-cutting theme.   

During a recent consultative meeting held in preparation for the launch of the new SGCI partnerships with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, IDRC and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation d, the councils agreed to continue working on the same themes with some additions. For instance, social sciences and humanities were added to cover the projects supported through the partnership with South Africa’s National Research Fund and the German Research Foundation.  

An overarching research framework based on the SGCI theory of change has been proposed to guide the councils and the collaborating technical agencies supporting their work in selecting the proposals to fund and synthesize research findings.  

Box 3: Ongoing and proposed research themes

  • Industrialization and manufacturing: Includes primary, secondary and tertiary industrial activities. Examples include mining, fisheries and agricultural production (primary), processing/agro-processing and manufacturing (secondary) and professional services/telecommunications (tertiary).
  • Sustainable economies and societies: Examples include sustainable agriculture practices (e.g. organic farming, green enterprises, crop rotation, increased crop diversity, integrated pest management, integration of livestock and crops, sustainable agroforestry practices and precision farming); sustainable health and health systems (e.g. use of natural/traditional medicines, zero-waste policies, telehealth services) and health research infrastructure; renewable energy (e.g. solar, wind, water, geothermal, biomass energy, etc.); sustainable use of biodiversity; and ocean sustainability.
  • Emerging technologies and development: Examples include new digital communication technologies, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, 3D printing, robotics, biotechnology, space science, and climate smart technologies (including agriculture).
  • Social sciences and humanities:

Examples include ethnographic studies, research impact studies, etc.

The framework outlines potential areas/activities (non-exhaustive) linked to broad research objectives/aims and the types/levels of synthesis that might be considered.   

Objective 1: Putting research findings into economic and social uses. Two types of research projects may be considered under this objective. These include national projects that address key industrial and social sector needs and regional/collaborative projects involving more than one council. Such projects can be amenable to cross-sectoral and comparative analyses.   

Objective 2: Promoting private sector partnerships in research and innovation. This will cover public–private partnership projects that can lead to new products and processes. It will also cover those who enable the environment for such partnerships to thrive through governance, policies, structures, feasibility studies, etc. These projects could be analyzed at organizational, national and regional levels. Projects under this objective may be national or regional/collaborative. 

Objective 3: Enhancing gender equality and inclusivity. This cross-cutting theme will be incorporated in all research projects. It will support activities that promote gender analysis in research and gender equality and inclusivity in the procedures and practices of science granting councils. It will also seek to integrate women and other vulnerable groups into leadership roles.   

This framework is flexible enough to accommodate additional objectives, research areas and syntheses. It will allow the councils to support research in priority sectors/themes linked to their national/regional priorities. The framework can also be modified further to align with the specific needs of the councils.   

4. Project goal and objectives   

This project aims to strengthen the capacity of science granting councils to fund and manage research and innovation in areas aligned with their national development plans and priorities. The specific objectives could include: 

  1. working with the councils to refine/adapt the draft research framework by accounting for their specific needs and interests; 

  1. supporting the councils to design and manage high quality research competitions. This could include support to design the calls for proposals and review guidelines and to organize proposal development workshops. The proposal review panels would typically be organized by the councils; 

  1. drawing and issuing contracts to be signed by the grantees, councils and the collaborating technical agency. The councils will be responsible for issuing letters of award to successful applicants; 

  1. conducting joint monitoring of research projects with the councils, including joint review of progress reports and research outputs. The councils will be the primary recipients of progress reports from researchers; 

  1. supporting the synthesis of research results and development of various research outputs (including reports, journal articles, books and policy briefs) and their dissemination for use; and 

  1. supporting symposia for researchers funded by this project in collaboration with the councils.

5.  Project approach   

An open call for applications will be used to select a suitable organization (or a consortium of organizations) to implement this project. The successful organization will work closely with the councils to manage research calls, monitor projects, synthesize research findings and generate various research outputs. The research priorities will be determined by individual councils. Every effort should be made to ensure an equitable distribution of research funds among SGCI participating countries. The councils will be expected to provide co-funds (in cash or in-kind) equivalent to at least 20% of the total budget.

This project will be closely coordinated with research projects supported by the councils through SGCI’s direct funding to them. It will also be implemented in close collaboration with all other components of SGCI-2 in a collaborative approach, particularly for the projects with a focus on research management, use of data and evidence in policy and decision-making, strategic communications and knowledge uptake, and gender equality and inclusivity. It will also be important to ensure alignment with the Initiative’s work on monitoring, evaluation and learning and data management systems. The proposal should include a detailed description of how the project’s implementation approach will consider the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.   

The project’s principal investigator, based at the lead organization, will be responsible for the project’s technical/financial management, reporting and other contractual obligations.   

6. Timelines and budget   


Important dates 


July 22, 2022  

Release of call for project proposals  

August 26, 2022  

Deadline for receipt of proposals  

September 16, 2022  

Outcome of selection process is communicated to all applicants   

ii) The budget available for this project is approximately CAD $8,200,000 (all inclusive) over approximately 34 months. The expenses for personnel should be no more than 10–20% of the total budget. Indirect costs (administrative costs not directly related to research/capacity building) should not exceed 13% of the total budget. Please note that value for money will be among the key evaluation criteria of proposals.   

A draft budget should be submitted using the IDRC template (Proposal Budget | IDRC - International Development Research Centre). The budget should be presented in the applicant organization’s working currency (Currency Converter | Foreign Exchange Rates | OANDA).  

7. Application procedure and submission deadline   

Proposals (25 pages or less, excluding annexes) should be submitted electronically to the SGCI secretariat ( by August 26, 2022 (17:00 East Africa Time). Proposals submitted after this deadline will not be accepted. All questions about this call should be submitted  to the secretariat by July 29,2022. Responses will be posted on the SGCI website.   

Proposals should be submitted in English in Word format. They should be concise and include the following elements (at a minimum):   

  • title, name, address and contacts of the project leader and name and address of the applicant organization;   

  • executive summary;   

  • project background and rationale;   

  • goals, specific objectives and key activities. They should also demonstrate links to SGCI themes;   

  • approach to training and technical support;   

  • expected outputs and outcomes and  project-level monitoring and evaluation;  

  • gender equality, inclusivity and ethical considerations;   

  • risks and potential mitigation measures (this information can be presented in a table listing the major potential risks associated with project; implementation, as well their probability/impact and potential management measures);  

  • organizational profile(s) and key project personnel; and   

  • brief biodata of the project’s key project team members (as an annex).  

8. Project team requirements   

The requirements for the project team members include:   

  • knowledge of national science, technology and innovation systems in Africa, including funding research and the key actors (organizations), policies and roles of science granting councils in brokering, facilitating and coordinating interactions among the various actors; experience working with Africa’s science granting councils, especially in the context of research and capacity strengthening;  

  • experience managing research funds and programs, research methodologies and project monitoring;   

  • experience synthesizing research results and developing knowledge outputs, including journal articles, reports, books and policy briefs; and   

  • ability to work in both English and French. Applications without both language capabilities will not be evaluated. Ability to work in Portuguese will be an added advantage.   

9. Evaluation criteria   

The proposals will be reviewed by the SGCI initiative management team and scored using a 50-point scale as follows:   

  • Originality, creativity and clarity of the proposal (showing a clear understanding of the project’s ambition, the roles of science granting councils in national science systems and the work of the SGCI as a whole) (10 points)   

  • Expertise and experience of project team members in the management of research funds and programs, research methodologies, project monitoring, evaluation and learning and synthesizing research results and developing knowledge outputs (12 points)   

  • Clarity and soundness of the project’s methodology/approach, including appropriateness for sub-Saharan Africa councils and the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and alignment with the SGCI’s collaborative implementation approach (9 points)   

  • Clarity/ justification of the budget and alignment with proposed project activities and value for money principles (10 points)   

  • Level of project team members’ presence and work experience in sub-Saharan Africa (9 points)   

10. About the funding partners   

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is a government department of the United Kingdom that pursues national interests and projects the UK as a force for good in the world. It promotes the interests of British citizens, safeguards the UK’s security, defend its values, reduces poverty and tackles global challenges with international partners.  

The International Development Research Centre is a Canadian Crown corporation that supports the generation of knowledge and innovation for positive change. It generates, identifies and tests scalable ideas and innovations; connects solutions with actors who can help to achieve large-scale impact; and examines early wins in scaling up to identify and share critical success factors.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation is a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its main purpose is to work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Norad has five main priorities: invest more strategically; be a key partner in sustainable development; contribute to a greener world; be a champion of innovation within development cooperation; strengthen and systematize the development, sharing and use of knowledge within the agency.

South Africa’s National Research Foundation is a government mandated research and science development agency. Its  goal is to create innovative funding instruments, advance research career development, increase public science engagement and establish leading-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community that aspires to global competitiveness.

The German Research Foundation is the self-governing organization for science and research in Germany. It serves all branches of science and the humanities. In organizational terms, it is an association under private law. Its membership consists of German research universities, non-university research institutions, scientific associations and the Academies of Science and the Humanities.