Funding from external sources is critical to enabling UCT’s research endeavours. The University acquires its funding from numerous private and public sources. Funding agencies such as the National Research Foundation and the Medical Research Council are important sources of research funding, as are research contracts signed with external partners. In a pressurised global economy, the University must be vigilant about how this money is deployed, and diligent in monitoring the results achieved.

National agency funding through research grants

The National Research Foundation and the Medical Research Council were the major agencies that provided national grant funding to UCT researchers and research groups.

National Research Foundation (NRF)

The NRF remains a first resort for funding for many researchers at UCT. At the end of 2010, UCT had a total of 399 NRF grant-holders across a variety of funding categories, holding 749grants with a cumulative value of over R213 million. This total can be favourably compared to the previous year’s 394 grant-holders holding 807 grants with a cumulative value of over R189 million.

The main streams of NRF funding allocated to UCT include:

  • Focus Area Programme Awards: at the end of 2010, UCT researchers held Focus Area grants with a cumulative value of R19,607,290. The last of these grants will come to an end on 31 December 2011 as the NRF is phasing out this programme.
  • Incentive Funding for (NRF) Rated Researchers Programme: in total, 267 rated researchers received Incentive Funding grants in 2010, with a total value of R15,564,182. This compares favourably with the previous year’s 221 grant-holders whose cumulative holding was valued at R13,589,667, reflecting an increase of R1,974,515.
  • Blue Skies Research Programme: at the end of 2010, UCT held seven Blue Skies grants in total. These had had been awarded under the previous call, with a cumulative value of R2,359,359.
  • Competitive Support for Rated Researchers Programme: at the end of 2010, UCT researchers held 30 grants in this programme with a cumulative value of R7,008,300.
  • Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP): THRIP is a partnership programme that leverages industry funding by providing matching government funding for innovative research and development in South Africa. In 2010, UCT submitted 27 applications for funding, with a total value of R13,140,305.
  • International Science Liaison (ISL): in 2010, UCT’s ISL grants were worth more than R26,433,340.

Medical Research Council (MRC)

The MRC aims to improve the nation’s health and quality of life by promoting and conducting relevant and responsive health research. UCT receives funding from the MRC in the form of research grants – e.g. career awards, training fellowships, development awards, self-initiated research grants – forindividual projects, and for nine MRC/UCT research units, groups and centres. During 2010 there was a 27% increase in funding from the MRC, valued at R17,605,326. Compared to 2009, the number of new awards,as self-initiated grants, increased from 11 to 19. The MRC provided additional funding for Brain Behaviour Research and travel grants.

Funding from research contracts

In 2010 the Research Contracts and Intellectual Property Services Office processed 1056 contracts to the value of R550 million. These contracts vary from short-term contract s of under R10 000 to multiyear contracts with multimillion-rand budgets and involve both local and foreign partners. The number of contracts approved in 2010 increased by 20% from 2009.

Contracts are signed with a variety of funders and organisations locally and abroad, as evidenced in Figure 4. 

South African government, public entities and statutory bodies: R51.26 million

South African non-profit entities: R37.31 million

South African science councils and research centres: R22.19 million

South African industry: R45.89 million

International funding: R382.49 million

International funding makes up by far the largest portion of contract research funding at UCT. Significant funders from the United States in 2010 included the National Institutes of Health, which entered into direct or indirect (through collaboration with universities in the USA) contracts to the value of R61 million, followed by the Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation’s contribution of R39.4 million and the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation’s R14.97 million. We also received R7.3 million in funding from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).The Department for International Development (DFID) was the major contributor from the United Kingdom, entering into contracts to the value of R60.89 million. The Wellcome Trust contributed R17.29 million in 2010. UCT entered into contracts to the value of R54.82 million with the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), which operates from The Netherlands. From Sweden, the University of Gothenburg sponsored projects to the value of R2.9 million. The European Commission Contracts contributed R7.9 million. Canada’s main contributor was the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) with contracts to the value of R30.75 million. In Australia, AMIRA International Limited was again UCT’s most prominent client with contracts to the value of R7.7 million. The University of Malawi was a major African client, with contracts to the value of R2.2 million, followed by Ghana’s Centre for Democratic Development with R1.27 million.


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