COSTECH:Building internal capacity through SGCI program to promote STI

07Dec 2021
Deo Mfugale
The Guardian
COSTECH:Building internal capacity through SGCI program to promote STI

TANZANIA, like many African countries, experiences a slow development process since its research capacity is not strong enough to address social and economic challenges. This calls for the need to improve research management in its institutions of higher learning as well as in the private sector,-

-focusing on science, technology and innovation. 

The Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH) is the flag bearer in spearheading the country’s quest to attain sustainable economic development that is grounded in science, technology and innovation. Among its responsibilities is coordination and promoting research and technology development activities in the country.

“The institution is the chief advisor to the government on all matters pertaining to science and technology and its application to the socio-economic development of the country,” reads part of the institution’s profile document. It is also responsible for the administration of research grants, maintenance of research registry and science information services, setting research policy, and creating incentives for invention and innovation.“We also have the mandate to promote research and technology applications in Tanzania, ultimately enhancing innovation and promoting scientific good practice in a bid to realize socio-economic development,” the document further reads.

As the Science Granting Council (SGC) in Tanzania, COSTECH is taking part in the Science Granting Council Initiative (SGCI), programme that seeks to strengthen the ability of SGCs in research excellence, research ethics and emerging scientific practices.

COSTECH began participating in SGCI in 2015. “Since then our capacity to manage research has improved. We are now in the second phase of the programme which began in 2018 and in due course, we have strengthened collaboration with partners and made significant strides in designing research calls and monitoring and evaluating research projects. This has raised the quality of research conducted in the country,” explains Ms. Neema Tindamanyire, Coordinator of the SGCI programme.

Due to participation in SGCI, COSTECH has also improved the manual on research and innovation grants for management of research calls. “The newly developed SCGI standardized manual has borrowed a leaf from our manual. Following the improved capacity, our partners and network have also grown. We have also raised the amount of funding for project implementation by our grantees and beneficiaries which we would otherwise not be able to do,” she adds.

Beneficiaries of COSTECH’s participation in SGCI programme include Sokoine University of Agriculture (UA), Tanzania Engineering and Manufacturing Design Organization (TEMDO), University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), University of Dodoma(UDOM), Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS),  Intermech Engineering; Ng'ahmi Industries Company; RPK oil Mill; Arusha Oil Processing Company; Mgolole Agro-Processing Company.“Some of the beneficiaries like SUA are new to the programme; they have just started implementing their project. There are other institutions that we have been working with for a long time," says Ms. Tindamanyire. TEMDO, for example is well into their projects having collaborated with COSTECH for some time.

One of the beneficiaries is Engineer Patrick Kivanda who is implementing a project to design and produce plasma cutter machines. “COSTECH provided funding for this project amounting to 12.5m/-. This is more than half of the total cost of the project and I believe this has been possible because the institution’s capacity to fund research projects is growing,” says Eng. Kivanda. According to Eng. Kivanda, the cost of producing one plasma cutter stands at about 19m/- and he had to turn to other sources for funding in order to complete the project. “In future, researchers are likely to get more funding from COSTECH as the institution’s capacity to fund and manage projects expands,” he adds.

Africa’s Science Granting Councils are important partners in improving the continent’s scientific research outputs and achieving continental policy initiatives. Strengthening their capacities in research management will enable them to better play their crucial roles as integrators and brokers of knowledge within their national systems of innovation. The Science Granting Council Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa seeks to promote effective science granting councils that will strengthen national science systems and lead to nationally led research that contributes to development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, the programme seeks to strengthen the ability of participating councils to manage research, to design and monitor research programs based on the use of robust science, technology and innovation (STI) indicators and to support knowledge exchange with the private sector. Other objectives are to establish partnerships between science granting councils and other science system actors and to support management of research calls by COSTECH.

To this end the Association of African Universities (AAU) is collaborating with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) to implement the second phase of the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) Research Management Project which will strengthen the capacities of Africa’s Science Granting Councils to play their essential roles effectively and efficiently in research, knowledge generation and innovation through training, technical support, and peer-to-peer learning.

 The Research Management Project is being implemented in 15 sub Saharan African countries. They are Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Botswana, Malawi and Uganda. Others are Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ethiopia, Namibia, and Rwanda. The project will support the development of research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to economic and social development on the continent.

"The overall goal of the project is to fortify the capability of Science Granting Councils in explicit areas of research management, namely research excellence, research ethics, emerging scientific practices (especially open data, open access and scientific citizenship) and development of online grant management systems" says Prof Jonathan Mba, Director of Research and Academic Planning at the AAU.

Since its inception in 2015, SGCI has been strengthening the capacities of science granting councils in 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. More effective science granting councils are expected to strengthen national science, technology, and innovation systems and ultimately promote nationally led research that contributes to development in participating countries.

Two new cross-cutting dimensions - research excellence and gender equality and inclusivity- have recently been added to the Initiative. As part of the SGCI’s second phase, funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and International Development Research Centre (IDRC) will provide grants to each council, enabling them to manage research competitions and related activities in areas aligned with their national research agendas.

The purpose of this project is to support COSTECH to manage national research calls in manufacturing and industrialization. The calls will strengthen the Commission’s research management capacity and promote both private sector engagement and women’s participation in research and innovation.