Capacity development has been an integral aspect of the Newton Fund programme. Over the past eight years UK researchers have worked in partnership with South African beneficiaries to tackle our sustainable development priorities.
Several funding instruments have been supported through the Newton Fund Agreement, a partnership between the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the British Council. These include the Bilateral and Trilateral Research Chairs which forms part of the SA Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) programme. Nelson Komane, Professional Officer for Human and Infrastructure Capacity at the NRF explains the relevance of this initiative:
“The SARChI programme is a strategic initiative of the SA government with the aim of increasing scientific research capacity through generation of knowledge. The focus of the programme is to attract established researchers who train and mentor postgraduate students so that they become the next generation of researchers and leaders.”
The UK-SA Newton Fund Research Chair programme has been a catalyst to drive research and innovation excellence in South African and UK universities. Sam Rametse, Science Programmes Manager for the British Council elaborates:
“Through the Chairs, we were able to attract leading researchers working in areas related to the Newton Fund Themes. Their affiliation with both UK and South African Universities allowed for knowledge and human capacity exchange. Through their experience and well-established research positions, they were able to attract and produce high-quality Masters, PhD and Postdoc students. The UK:SA Newton Fund Research Chair initiative is beginning to show long-term, sustainable impact in the South African science landscape.”
Dr Stephen Devereux, a development economist and Co-Director of the Centre for Social Protection at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, is one of the Research Chairs that have been appointed as part of this programme. Dr Devereux’s expertise in food security has made a significant contribution to research at the University of the Western Cape. As a recognised thought leader on social protection and food security, he has also contributed to the Department of Social Development policy and public service delivery. In addition, Dr Devereux has shared his expertise other governments in the African region.
Over the past eight years many young South Africans have been supported by the Newton Fund. The Researcher Links programme has, for example, provided researchers with travel grants and funding to visit the UK or partner countries around the world.
Luphiwo Mduzana, the first student in South Africa to pursue his PhD in orthotics and prosthetics at Walter Sisulu University, is one such beneficiary. A travel grant enabled him to visit Strathclyde University in Scotland, home to some of the best researchers in this field. He explains further:
“The visit to Strathclyde University benefitted me immensely professionally, I made connections with some of the world leading Orthotists and Prosthetists. This means we will now be able to invite international scholars to Walter Sisulu University for research, moderation and external examination purposes. Thank you to the Newton Fund: now I am making strides in my profession and positively impacting on my colleagues and peers.”
Dr Neo Pule, a lecturer in Psychology in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Free State, is another beneficiary. In her studies she has used social dream drawing to access unconscious thinking. A travel grant made it possible for her to visit the Centre for Psychosocial Studies at the University of West England, home to the developer of this methodology. Neo explains how she has benefitted from this exposure:
“Professionally this opportunity has sharpened my research, giving it focus and clarity. I am now able to supervise student research projects from abroad which enhances my profile as an academic. Additionally, the association with UK colleagues has linked me up with American and Australian colleagues. Overtime, these links develop into new ones and the network keeps growing. Personally, I have made friends and established strong collegial links and collaborations that give me high satisfaction in terms of the work that I do.”
By building the capacity of researchers, the Newton Fund has broader, long term and sustainable impact. These young minds will continue transform lives through their partnerships, research and innovation.