The National Research Foundation (NRF) in South Africa funds research and encourages critical research infrastructure to promote knowledge production throughout all disciplinary fields. As a government-mandated agency in the fields of science and research, they also highlight the development of high-end human capacity in this vein.
South Africa: Science, research and innovation
NRF sets out to make innovative funding instruments, further public science engagement, push forward research career development and increase the public’s engagement in science. Also, establish leading-edge research platforms are important to NRF because these will “transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community to aspire to global competitiveness.” We should also note that the NRF wants to build bridges between research communities for the mutual benefit of research institutions, international partners, as well as business at home and abroad.
The NRF Strategic Plan 2015-2020 underscores the agency function of the organisation and the part it plays as an implementer of policy within the National System of Innovation (NSI). The NRF’s website develops this important point in their own words. “Playing a critical integration role across the public entities within the Science and Technology sector, the NRF as the agency of government has the ability to catalyse focussed societally beneficial research and development in support of knowledge generation, human capacity development, and innovation.”(1)
Also, Dr Molapo Qhobela is Chief Executive Officer of the NRF, an experienced executive leader with a considerable policy and administration background, indeed, he headed up, “the development of a significant number of policy and strategy documents, which have shaped the nature and operations of South African universities as well as the education system in general.” Further, his knowledge of the National System of Innovation and South African Higher Education System is said to be exceptional. Over the years, he has established networks and international relationships with government entities and funders. (2)
The Commonwealth’s extensive reach
In recent NRF news, we find out that Commonwealth Day was celebrated on 9th March 2020, where a day of workshops, networking and exchange in Pretoria was enjoyed by distinguished guests, scholarship students and alumni. Dr Faye Taylor, Head of Strategic Partnerships at the Association of Commonwealth Universities shared her thoughts on this event and how it will benefit the individuals concerned:
“It was a pleasure to welcome our scholars alongside alumni and distinguished guests to celebrate Commonwealth Day in Pretoria. Scholarships are at the heart of Commonwealth collaboration. They enable not just individuals to develop knowledge in their discipline, embracing new cultures, and creating networks that they treasure throughout their careers, but also national development, by allowing access to the best expertise across the world,” she said.
Dr Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director Strategic Partnerships at the NRF, added his positive thoughts about the event’s impact and reach, including the importance of developing early-career scientists. “The NRF is delighted to partner with a prominent global organisation like the ACU in fostering high-level human capacity development opportunities. Our long-standing and strategic engagement provides a platform to develop and nurture early-career scientists to become leading researchers.
“The Commonwealth’s extensive reach and impact, and support of South Africa’s programmes, contribute significantly to enhance international networks, mentorship and access to global research funds and infrastructure.” (3)
In closing, it is worth highlighting that funding science, research and innovation are a vital part of NRF’s work and they are keen to push forward collaboration between institutions at home and further afield. The example of the partnership described above illustrates the NRF’s aim to promote “South African research interests across the country and internationally” brilliantly. (1)