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Call for proposals to support Africa’s Science Granting Councils in developing policy frameworks and enabling structures for public-private sector partnerships

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The Science Granting Councils Initiative is calling for proposals to support the councils with implementing policy frameworks to promote public-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 the councils in developing policy frameworks and enabling structures for private sector partnerships. Through a new SGCI partnership with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and IDRC, funding of up to CAD$1,200,000 is available for this work over a period of approximately 34 months. IDRC will enter into an agreement with the successful organization.

Applicants are expected to use the following information only as a guide in developing their proposals. Proposals need 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, technology and innovation (STI) systems. These functions vary from country to country but include the 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 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

The Science Granting Councils Initiative in sub-Saharan Africa (SGCI-1) 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 in mid-2021, bringing the total number of SGCI councils to 16, and 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 manage research; design and monitor research programs and formulate and implement policies based on the use of STI indicators; support knowledge exchange with the private sector; and 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: Support the ability of science granting councils to fund research and innovation

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

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

3. Background and context

Research organizations (universities, research institutes and think tanks) are increasingly expected to promote innovation by strengthening linkages with private sector actors. They are expected to produce research that responds to both the social and economic development needs of countries and to interact more closely with the intended beneficiaries of their research. Industry has moved away from internal research and development, leading to an increased demand for collaborations between research and industry (for example, in the form of public-private partnerships and open innovation initiatives, among others).

Many African universities and research institutions have reorganized or created new structures to address this reality. They have established technology transfer offices/intellectual property management offices; new offices in the university management structures; and new companies are attached to universities. At the national level, there’s renewed emphasis on innovation both in policies and government funding instruments. Outside government, new intermediary organizations that foster links between academia and industry have emerged.

Box 3: Commissioned studies

1) Building competitive and socially inclusive local pharmaceutical manufacturing in West Africa by enhancing research, innovation and intellectual property

2) Health and Industrialization: Exploring the role of public-private partnerships in building competitive health-industry complexes in southern Africa

3) Pharmaceutical partnerships for increased access to Quality Essential Medicines in the East Africa region

Promoting links and knowledge exchange between public sector research organizations and private sector actors has been a key objective of SGCI’s work since its inception. Under the first phase of SGCI, for instance, a total of 11 projects involving private sector actors were supported in partnership with six councils. Some of these projects resulted in products that can be scaled up or commercialized. Three commissioned studies on public-private sector partnerships (Box 3) resulted in policy briefs and journal articles. The councils received support on engagement with the private sector through training and technical support, including the development of private sector communication strategies and action plans. Several resources (including a training manual/toolkit and a social media how-to-guide) were developed for councils to use in their work with private sector actors.

The emphasis on promoting partnerships with the private sector continues in the second phase of SGCI, especially through research projects. In this regard, 12 councils are currently supporting approximately 42 projects that involve private sector actors. These projects ensure that the priorities of research organizations are aligned with private sector needs and enhance their understanding of how to work with public research organizations, thereby enabling co-designing, co-funding and co-implementation of research, knowledge exchange and use of research findings. Similarly, transitionary funds supported the councils from Malawi, Uganda and Zambia to organize stakeholder/policy dialogues involving key actors, with special emphasis on the private sector. These policy dialogues are expected to result in negotiated national research agendas and priorities.

A 2016 needs assessment exercise with the councils identified lack of policy frameworks and enabling structures as a major constraint to fostering partnerships with the private sector. The councils also identified commercialization of research results as a high-priority area for them. Building on the work carried out under both phases of SGCI, this project will support the councils to put in place the policy frameworks necessary to promote public-private sector partnerships. It will also support the piloting of these frameworks, draw lessons and share experiences with other councils based on their specific needs and interests. This project could draw on previous work undertaken through the Global Research Council’s working group on partnered research program, in which the councils shared lessons on how to support public-private engagements in research to improve the prospects for innovation and commercialization of research findings. Furthermore, a landscaping study on “Technology Transfer and Commercialization in Africa” conducted under SGCI-1 provided several recommendations about the uptake and use of research findings that could provide a basis for targeted interventions under this project. As with all SGCI projects, integrating gender and inclusivity is a priority that must be considered in the implementation of this project.

This project aims to advance, consolidate and deepen the work described above. For instance, in countries where private sector engagement frameworks have been developed, this project will support their operationalization and piloting. Similarly, the tools/manuals developed under SGCI will be tested and piloted to promote uptake and use.

4. Project goal and objectives

This project aims to support science granting councils to develop and operationalize policy frameworks and structures for private sector partnerships and commercialization of research results.

Specific objectives could include:

  1. Support the councils to develop and operationalize policy frameworks and related strategies for research, innovation, and commercialization. Whereas IP policy frameworks/ strategies could be prioritized, other related frameworks (for example research frameworks and collaborative partnerships) are necessary to operationalize these policies and may be included.
  2. Support the development and implementation of private sector engagement frameworks. This work will build on work carried out with the councils from Botswana and Ghana under SGCI-1 as well as ongoing work in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia. In the five countries where engagement strategies have been developed, the project could focus on their operationalization and piloting. The remaining countries could be supported to develop new engagement frameworks through various processes including stakeholder dialogues, case studies and business case development.
  3. Provide technical support to the councils implementing projects that involve partnerships with the private sector. Some public-private partnership projects supported by the councils have generated products and processes with potential for commercialization. Analysis could be carried out to generate and share lessons and technical support could be provided to address various issues that may arise.
  4. Develop and support the implementation of various tools (manuals, toolkits, model strategies and other materials) that the councils and their partners could use to strengthen the policies and related structures for effective private sector engagement and the commercialization of research results.

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. Training and technical support to the councils could involve customized in-country coaching (supported by local experts where this is feasible/ desired by the councils), in-person training courses/workshops and using online platforms. This project should be implemented in close collaboration with other components of SGCI-2 in a collaborative manner, especially in terms of gender equality and inclusivity and the projects on research management, strategic communications, knowledge uptake and networking. . 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

i)

Due 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 communicated to applicants

ii) The budget available for this project is approximately CAD$1,200,000 (all inclusive) over approximately 34 months. A draft budget should be submitted using the IDRC template (Proposal Budget | IDRC - International Development Research Centre). The budget should be in the 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 (SGCSSA@idrc.ca) 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 sent to 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 contact details of the project leader and name and address of the applicant organization
  • Executive summary
  • Project background and rationale
  • Goal, specific objectives, key activities and links to other SGCI themes
  • Project implementation approach
  • Expected outputs and outcomes and project-level monitoring and evaluation
  • Gender equality and inclusivity and ethical considerations
  • Risks and potential mitigation measures (this information can be presented in a table listing the major potential risks associated with the project implementation as well their probability/ impact and potential management measures)
  • Organizational profile(s) and key project personnel  
  • Brief biodata of the project’s key project team members (as annex)

8. Project team requirements

The requirements for the project team members include:

  • Knowledge of national STI systems in Africa including the key actors (organizations), policies and roles of science granting councils in brokering, facilitating, funding and coordinating interactions among various actors.
  • Expertise and experience (supported by relevant publications) on public-private sector partnerships including the policies, frameworks and strategies involved in such partnerships.
  • Practical experience in commercialization of research results into products or services and supporting councils or researchers to acquire intellectual property rights.
  • Experience working with Africa’s public sector STI organizations (especially science granting councils) in the context of capacity strengthening.  
  • 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 shown below:

  • Expertise and practical experience of project team members in public-private sector partnerships for research and innovation and commercialization of research results, acquiring of IP rights and other areas covered by the project (11 points)
  • Originality, creativity and clarity of the proposal, demonstrating familiarity with SGCI’s work, experience working with science granting councils in sub-Saharan Africa, a clear understanding of the project’s ambition and the roles of science granting councils in the context of national science systems. Clear articulation of how the project builds on and reinforces SGCI’s work on public-private sector partnerships and links with related efforts (13 points)
  • Clarity and soundness of the project’s approach to training and technical support, including appropriateness for sub-Saharan Africa councils, value for money principles and the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic and alignment with the SGCI’s collaborative implementation approach (13 points)
  • Clarity/ justification of the budget and the extent of its alignment with the proposed project activities (6 points)
  • Level of project team members’ presence in sub-Saharan Africa (7 points)

10. About the funding partners

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is a United Kingdom government department 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 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. The Agency 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 organization.

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

The National Research Foundation is South Africa’s government mandated research and science development agency. The Foundation’s 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 to aspire to global competitiveness.

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency is a government agency of Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It strives to reduce world poverty by allocating resources and knowledge with the goal of making a difference for people in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. To achieve this, the agency collaborates with actors from civil society, universities and the public and private sector.

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.