[Kenya] ICIPE to manage regional doctoral training, research and innovation fund
29-11-2018 14:40:00 | by: Pie Kamau | hits: 3686 | Tags:

The International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology ( icipe ), Kenya, has the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF), an initiative to strengthen doctoral training, as well as research and innovation in applied sciences, engineering and technology. (ASET), in Africa.

The RSIF is strongly positioned to support the continent's concerted goals of achieving inclusive and sustainable development, by creating much needed technical and scientific capacity for the advancement and use of transformative technologies.

The RSIF is one of the flagship programs for Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology (PASET), an initiative by African governments to address fundamental gaps in skills and knowledge necessary for long-term, sustained economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). PASET was launched in 2013 by the governments of Senegal, Ethiopia and Rwanda, while the governments of Kenya and Ivory Coast have joined the partnership. So far, 15 other African governments have made commitments to join PASET.

The RSIF aims to support PhD training, research and innovation in various African universities selected as priorities in sectors of excellence in fields identified by PASET as a priority economic sector for growth and development. The initial funding has been provided through a six-year USD15 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA), towards the design and administration costs of RSIF scholarships, research and innovation grants.

The Government of South Korea is providing a USD9 million grant that will support PhD scholarships and research grants. The governments of Kenya and Rwanda have made contributions of USD2 million and USD1.5 million respectively, while Ethiopia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi have pledged financial contributions.

"The RSIF is an innovative and ambitious project and one that we want to look forward to and have an impact on higher education and scientific-technical capacity on the continent," noted Prof. dr. Javier Botero Alvarez, Lead Education Specialist at the World Bank.

Transformative technologies for inclusive and sustainable growth in Africa

A majority of African countries aspire to achieve a middle-income status. They have also made commitments to the African Union Agenda 2063, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, while fulfilling conditions of the Paris Agreement on climate change, among others.

In addition, over the recent fits, there has been definite recognition at the highest possible levels that, in order for sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa, the continent's economic structure must diversify away from simple resource extraction, towards manufacturing and services.

For this goal to be achieved, a range of technical and institutional improvements are vital, to introduce innovations in products and processes, and to achieve higher productivity. Meanwhile, the advancing transformative technologies, which include 3D printing, internet of things and artificial intelligence, hold great potential for Africa's specific challenges.

Sometimes known as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution", such technologies could dramatically augment efficiency in the food, energy, infrastructure and health sectors while also enabling the impact of climate change.

Currently, SSA lacks a critical mass or applied scientists, engineers and technologists. The region has just 1.1% of the world's scientific researchers, with less than 92 scientists per one million inhabitants, compared to the global average of 1083. SSA spends a mere 0.41% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on research and development (R & D) ), and only 1.4% of global scientific publications originate in SSA.

Further, SSA is the destination of 0.8% or R & D-related projects financed by foreign direct investment, compared to 28.7% received by China and India. Against this background, and alongside boosts in the business environment and other supportive measures, a regional approach that complements critical technical and scientific capability, as the nurturing of innovators and entrepreneurs, is critical.  

RSIF's approach

RSIF aims to respond to prevailing opportunities and challenges in SSA by reinforcing doctoral training in ASET through a virtuous circle that will increase the number of PhD graduates while improving the quality of higher education through stronger faculty. The fund also promotes research and innovation in areas such as materials, energy, food security, and information and communication technology, which have high potential for growth and development.

A competitive fund scheme, RSIF has two components: (i) a general fund, which supports PhD training, research and innovation projects annually and (ii) a permanent or endowment fund, whose proceeds will be channeled into the general fund.

icipe 's role

icipe  has been appointed the Regional Coordinating Unit (RCU) or RSIF with a mandate that includes coordinating, monitoring and evaluation of RSIF activities. Specifically,  I  will manage the two RSIF funds; strengthen the capacity of universities and partnering institutions to manage PhD scholarships, and to conduct research and innovation in the priority sectors.

In Addition,  ICIPE  will Facilitate the creation of partnerships with Governments, universities and national and international research organizations for research training, for example through training and sandwich collaboration with centers of excellence. icipe  will receive the IDA grant funds and is expected to coordinate future contributions from governments, the private sector and other sources, administering them under the oversight of the PASET governance bodies.

" Icipe  was selected through a competitive process, and was awarded the grant of strong processes and systems, governance, record of world-class R & D and demonstrated expertise in PhD and institutional capacity building in Africa, and its excellent record of research commercialization. "Said Prof. Botero Alvarez. "Moreover icipe 's extensive network of academic, research, donor and development partners amounting to over 300 organizations and institutions, in Africa and across the world, is a huge asset to the goals of RSIF."

"The Center is honored to support the RSIF, an initiative with a noble goal for the continent; one that resonates with our Center's vision in many ways, "noted  icipe  Director General & CEO, Dr. Segenet Kelemu. "We believe that our near 50-year history stands as a testament or unrelenting commitment to science and innovation-led development in SSA."

Capacity building of people and institutions has been a core commitment of  icipe  since its Establishment in 1970, enabling national and subregional R & D innovation systems to sustainably undertake their own R & D programs to deliver on-the-ground impacts for Africa.

icipe  shares with RSIF the vision of bolstering research and development capacity and excellence in Africa; the ambition of innovation for sustainable and inclusive growth; increasing representation of women in science and technological fields; and the ideal of a regional approach to Africa's developmental challenges.