UK research funding for development in Kenya


UK research funding for development in Kenya

An analysis of funding and reach (2014-2019)

Adrian Bucher, Sheila Mburu, Yaso Kunaratnam, Adam Dinsmore, Callum Boyd, Alice Cross, Alice Norton and Marta Tufet

Executive Summary

This report presents an analysis of the nature and reach of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Wellcome funding for international development research and partnership activities in Kenya between 2014 – 2019, positioned within the wider profile of the Kenyan national research and innovation system.

The analyses provide a baseline of UK funding and collaboration intending to improve coherence and visibility of its investments to inform future activities under the UK Government’s new and distinctive commitment to work alongside, invest in, and partner with African nations. This commitment, announced by former UK Prime Minister Teresa May in 2018, aims to establish long-term, meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships. Alongside other areas of engagement, this will lead to a broadening and deepening of UK research and innovation investments and partnerships in Kenya. This investment will be led by the UK Government through hubs in various African nations, focused on science, technology and innovation.

UKCDR used multiple methods including portfolio-level, and global funding data analysis of UK ODA and Wellcome-funded projects, stakeholder interviews and bibliometrics to draw out high-level research trends and impacts. Key findings from the report include:

The UK has a long history of research partnerships and is one of the largest international research funders in Kenya, making it key to the Kenyan research ecosystem. UK ODA and Wellcome investment related to Kenya between 2014 – 2019 totalled £857.3m across 272 research projects. However, this is reduced to an estimated £164.4m after controlling for data limitations (awards to multi-country research projects were equally divided by the number of countries of focus). Research investments are varied – spanning all the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with strong focus on SDG 3: Good health and well-being, and projects are delivered through complex and diverse funding schemes.

UK funding has supported many institutional collaborations between researchers in the UK, Kenya and beyond, underpinned by several long-term investments. Notably, the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi, more recently the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) platform and long-term Department for International Development (DFID) funding. Project outputs include more than 3,656 publications (produced between 2017 and August 2019), the majority on medical and health sciences, biological sciences and studies in human sciences. Collated case studies and programme highlights demonstrate the global reach and diverse nature of the investment spanning mangrove conservation, bioenergy access, democracy, and maternal and child-health.

UK funding is closely aligned with Kenyan national research priorities facilitated by strong partnerships. A flagship of UK-Kenya partnership is the Newton-Utafiti Fund, which enables joint priority setting, matched and in-country direct research funding. Kenya’s Big Four Agenda and National Research Fund present opportunities for UK-funded research to expand across Kenyan national development priorities for further alignment, coherence and equitable partnerships.

The UK Government’s partnerships with Africa have an established and effective model in Kenya, through the Joint UK-Kenya Oversight Board on Science, Technology and Research, the DFID East Africa Research Hub, and the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Science and Innovation Network.  These mechanisms provide a strong base for future activities both in and with Kenya and replication in other countries.

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