One of the main challenges standing in the way of the country’s research system towards the exploitation of research, science, technology and innovation (RST&I) is low funding. This is however receiving substantial attention from the government through the National Research Fund (NRF) – a national research agency established under the Science Technology and Innovation (ST&I) Act of 2013 to facilitate research, science, technology and innovation for national development.
In the just released NRF’s inaugural research grants, over 66 postgraduate students’ research projects at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have won competitive grants to the tune of Ksh. 115 Million for the 2016/17 financial year, after responding to a call for the research funds for Masters, PhD as well as Multidisciplinary and Multi-institutional and Infrastructural support categories.
Out of the 66 postgraduate students’ projects that were successful, 35 Masters projects were awarded Ksh. 13.7 Million, while 29 PhD projects received Ksh. 42.6 Million, whereas 6 projects under the multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional category bagged over Ksh.59.3 Million out of the total Ksh.115 Million awarded to JKUAT.
With this shot in the arm, JKUAT researchers and postgraduate students beneficiaries are now on an even keel with their peers – thus better placed to undertake their research as outlined in the grant application and Memorandum of Understanding documents.
Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Research, Production and Extension (RPE), Prof. Mary Abukutsa, says, during the launch of NRF Strategic Plan for 2017-2022 on December 14, 2017, JKUAT also signed a contract with NRF to underscore the University’s commitment to use the grants for research and innovation projects in accordance with the guidelines.”
Prof. Abukutsa notes, although there is much to be done to scale up financial resources towards research in the country to 2% of the GDP as indicated in the (ST&I) Act, the latest award of funds to various institutions by NRF is a significant milestone effort by the Government towards strengthening research and innovation capacity in universities and research institutions.
This, she further explains, is a positive contribution towards poverty alleviation initiatives and improvement of people’s livelihoods in line with the country’s socio-economic development blue print. “NRF will help us increase research and innovation output because NRF is also funding innovations through the Kenya National Innovation Agency (KENIA), thus boosting innovations developed by our innovators.”
Prof. Abukutsa further says, KENIA is expected to support innovations that have been lying on the shelves of research institutions due to lack of funds to upscale and harness them into service and product utilities through commercialization.
Apart from facilitating JKUAT to accelerate the actualization of her training, research and innovation vision, Prof. Abukutsa is optimistic that the research grants to JKUAT come as a big relief to postgraduate students. They will, consequently, significantly translate into higher completion rates at Masters and PhD level given that many students grapple with research funding challenges.
Besides working with their supervisors, Prof Abukutsa appeals to postgraduate students “to work closely with the University’s research directorate to ensure they access updated information and proper guidance on proposal writing.” For innovators with viable innovations that could be transformed into useful products and services, she advises them to take advantage of the innovation funds category.
Meanwhile, all JKUAT beneficiaries of the 2016 NRF grants are advised to contact the RPE Division for the immediate disbursement of the research funds. NRF call for the 2017/18 is already out. For details, check the NRF Website.