UK research funding for development in South Africa


UK research funding for development in South Africa

An analysis of funding and reach (2014-2019)

Adrian Bucher, Sheila Mburu, Yaso Kunaratnam, Alice Cross, Callum Boyd, Adam Dinsmore, 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 South Africa between 2014 – 2019, positioned within the wider profile of the South African 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 South Africa. 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 for this report include:

The UK has a long history of research partnership and is one of the largest international research funders in South Africa, making it key to the South African research ecosystem. UK ODA and Wellcome investment related to South Africa between 2014 – 2019 totalled £474.1m across 397 research projects. However, this is reduced to an estimated £105.5m, 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 collaborations between researchers in the UK, South Africa and beyond with funds awarded to 104 lead institutions, partnering with a further 236 institutions (from 63 countries) through the 397 research projects related to South Africa. Project outputs include more than 10,669 publications (produced between 2017 and August 2019), the majority on medical and health sciences, biological sciences and earth sciences. Collated case studies and programme highlights demonstrate the global reach and diverse nature of the investment spanning HIV, Tuberculosis, peacebuilding, rodent control and governance.

The UK needs to maximise the benefits of this large and important investment in South Africa through improved coherence, visibility and equitable partnership. UK funding is largely aligned with South African national research priorities through the existence of formal agreements and strong partnerships with academics and the benefits in visibility and impact afforded have been demonstrated to date (through the Newton Fund in particular). In 2020, South Africa will determine its next national research and development priorities, and this presents an opportunity to potentially diversify UK investments beyond SDG 3.

UK funding needs to focus on sustainable partnerships with improved equity in both funding mechanisms and research partnerships to promote greater alignment with South African national priorities, visibility and impact of the UK investment. The UK Government’s partnerships with Africa has strong foundations in South Africa which provide an excellent base for future activities.

Is this page helpful?

Go Back

Related Publications