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NRF Funding

The objective of the National Research Foundation (NRF) is to support and promote research through funding, human capacity development and the provision of the necessary research facilities, in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of the natural and social sciences, humanities and technology, including indigenous knowledge systems.


Knowledge Interchange and Collaboration (KIC)

The NRF acknowledges research as an inherently international activity although there is much benefit to be derived from comparing local knowledge with other local systems or sharing methodologies. One of the strategic performance goals of NRF Vision 2015 is to strive for an internationally competitive science, technology and innovation system. The promotion of international collaboration through travel as well as participation in scientific events is a direct route to this goal.

The KIC programme was therefore established to achieve the following objectives:

  • internationalise research;
  • enhance networking within the science system;
  • foster collaboration in order to improve the quality of research outputs by researchers.


Thuthuka Programme

The Thuthuka Programme, initiated in 2001, is central to the NRF’s human capital development strategy in so far as it relates to advancing the equity and redress agenda within the research sphere. The Programme is located within the Institutional Capacity Programme (ICP) sub-directorate, which falls within the Human and Institutional Capacity Development directorate at the NRF. Operating within the ever-evolving higher education landscape, the Programme aims to develop human capital and to improve the research capacities of designated researchers (black [African, Indian or Coloured], female or disabled) with the ultimate aim of redressing historical imbalances. This is done in partnership with publicly funded HEIs, Science Councils and other research institutions.

The Thuthuka grants are limited to academics and researchers, with academic and/or joint academic and administrative professional appointments, at publicly funded HEIs, Science Councils and other research institutions. Where applicable, applicants must provide proof that the institution, at which the individual is employed, recognises such a joint appointment.

The Thuthuka Programme consists of three distinct tracks. Applicants may apply for funding in one of the following three tracks:

  1. PhD Track
  2. Post-PhD Track
  3. NRF-rating Track

Incentive Funding for Rated Researchers

The aim of this programme is to incentivise excellent research. Funding is awarded to rated researchers on an annual basis for the duration of their rating. The amount of funding allocated is directly proportional to each researcher’s rating.

Only researchers who hold a valid NRF rating are eligible for this type of support.

Competitive support for unrated researchers

The programme is intended to assist unrated researchers who are not eligible to participate in any of the other NRF HICD Programmes, through funding and support, in the development of their research careers. This process is facilitated by supporting, through funding, research that is sustainable, of excellent quality and that adds to relevant bodies of knowledge.


South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP)

The research themes addressed through SANAP are concerned with understanding environmental variability to ensure quality of life via sustainable interactions with the earth system that supports human existence and the social context in which humans operate to the benefit of society. The overall objectives of SANAP include the generation of new knowledge, the development of research capacity and the diversification of the researcher community, both in terms of demographic representation and discipline base, and the stimulation of a multidisciplinary understanding of Antarctica that can inform national and international policy and practice.


Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP)

The Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP) is a partnership programme that is funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The programme is managed in terms of the strategic direction of the dti, and is aligned with the current strategic direction of the NRF such that the programme benefits synergistically from the institutional partnership.

THRIP promotes partnerships in pre-commercial research between business and the public-funded research base including universities and research institutions.

On a cost-sharing basis with industry, THRIP supports Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) research collaboration focused on addressing the technology needs of the participating firms.

THRIP also encourages and supports the development and mobility of research personnel and students among participating organisations.

The objectives of THRIP are:

  • To contribute to the increase in the number and quality of people with appropriate skills in the development and management of research-based technology for industry;
  • To promote increased interaction among researchers and technology managers in industry, universities and Science, Engineering and Technology Institutions (SETIs), with the aim of developing skills for the commercial exploitation of science and technology.
  • To promote the mobility of people between industry and, universities and SETIs with the aim of developing researchers and R&D managers;
  • To stimulate industry and government to increase their investment in research, technology development, technology diffusion, and the promotion of innovation;
  • To promote increased collaboration between large and small enterprises, universities and SETIs, by conducting R&D activities leading to technology transfer and product or process development;
  • To promote thematic collaborative research and development projects within the NIPF; and
  • To steadily contribute to research outcomes that improves the quality of life of all South Africans.‌


National Equipment Programme

In order to fulfill its mandate, the National Research Foundation (NRF) has initiated, in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Research Infrastructure Support Programmes (RISP) that support the acquisition, maintenance and development, of state-of-the-art equipment. In order to achieve this objective, two sub-programmes, the National Equipment Programme (NEP) and the National Nanotechnology Equipment Programme (NNEP) were established. The latter programme forms part of the implementation of the National Nanotechnology Strategy (NNS).

The objectives of the two sub-programmes, NEP and NNEP, are to:

  • Support the acquisition of state-of-the-art equipment through purchasing or upgrade of instrumentation so that researchers can undertake world class research;
  • Provide infrastructure for research capacity development, mainly postgraduate student training, and staff development;
  • Support the development of technical and applications expertise, related to the research equipment acquisition, through research collaboration and training workshops;
  • Create a long-range planning culture for research equipment utilisation, maintenance and replacement;
  • Support and promote institutional, regional and national research priorities; and
  • Specifically for the NNEP, support the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology research in the country, in line with the objectives set forth in the NNS.‌


South African Biosystematics Initiative (SABI)

SABI aims to develop a representative community of systematic biologists- well supported by government and society- addressing exciting and important issues relevant to South Africa's rich biological heritage. SABI’s funding and its activities are therefore focused around four thrusts including research, education and training, public understanding of science, and infrastructure.‌


Society, Ecosystems and Change (SEAChange) Research Programme

The aim of the SEAChange Programme is to provide cutting-edge research to generate the necessary knowledge that will support management in achieving a healthy and productive marine and coastal environment for the benefit of all current and future South Africans. This programme is structured into four interdependent themes on Ecosystems and Change, Ecosystems and Society, Ecosystem Functioning and Marine Biotechnology.‌

Last Modified: Wed, 09 Dec 2015 11:16:18 SAST