Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa to Ignite Innovation in Africa

Immediate release 17 November 2016

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AESA will commit US$ 7 Million in innovation grants to catalyse pioneering research to achieve health and development outcomes.

Nairobi, Kenya, 17 November –  The African Academy of Sciences and the NEPAD Agency’s Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA) today (17 November 2016) committed US$7 million to fund innovative ideas and research through the Grand Challenges Africa programme to accelerate scientific breakthroughs that will improve Africa’s health and developmental outcomes.

AESA has partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide the Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Grants, which focus on finding local solutions to solve Africa’s pressing challenges and help the continent to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Grants will run for the next five years and comprise of the Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Seed Grants (GCA-ISG) and provide funding for scaling up innovations.

“Solutions for Africa’s challenges do exist within the continent. As an African grantmaking body, we are laser focused on tapping the best minds on the continent to develop innovative local solutions to our health and development challenges,” stated Dr Tom Kariuki, AESA’s Director.

The Grand Challenges Africa Grants will solicit ideas that can be developed into ground breaking research and innovations by providing up to US$100,000 in Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Seed Grants (GCA-ISG) for two years to each of the up to 40 projects that will be funded over the five-years that the scheme will run.

The GC Africa Grants will fund innovators resident in Africa with any level of experience, working in any discipline in colleges, universities, government laboratories, research institutions, non-governmental and non-profit organisations.

Innovations which receive the US$100,000 seed grants and show promise for scaling up will be eligible to apply for additional funding of up to US$1 million.  

AESA’s Grand Challenges Africa programme is part of global Grand Challenges, a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key health and development problems.

The first call for proposals that opened today as part of the GC Africa Innovation Seed Grants is focused on innovators seeking:

1) Providing new impetus and solutions and strategies to help Africa meet the SDG 3 target for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH). These cover key areas of:

  • New technologies to enable rapid identification of exposures that lead to poor outcomes in pregnancy, birth and in the first month of life — these could be exposures to communicable and non-communicable diseases.
  • Precision medicine approaches and techniques to identify microbes and other exposures in Africa that may increase susceptibility to non-communicable diseases (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) in mothers and children under 5 years of age.

2) Creative approaches to engage the public, and inspire policy and decision makers to increase investment in African Research & Development.

“While great strides have been made in reducing mortality in Africa, maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain unacceptably high. We are seeking bold new ideas with potential for enormous impact in Africa, so that mothers and children not only survive, but thrive,” Dr Kariuki said.

Estimates show that more than half the global maternal deaths and more than three-quarters of neonatal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa with more than half of maternal deaths directly or indirectly attributed to infectious causes such as HIV, malaria in pregnancy, sepsis and sexually transmitted diseases. Infections and complications related to preterm births also account for 88 % of newborn deaths.

The new grant also aims to complement existing global efforts and ignite more African funding for R&D to fast track scientific breakthroughs for reducing Africa’s disease burden, by funding revolutionary approaches that will lead to African organisations and governments committing more funding to catalyse R&D and innovation. In 2007, the African Union Heads of States set a target for countries to allocate 1% of their GDP to R&D by 2010 but to date very few African governments have increased their funding for R&D and only a handful are approaching the 1% target.

“We also hope to motivate and mobilise government support and increased investment for R&D to ensure the sustained development and commercialisation of novel solutions to transform the future for a huge part of our population,” stated Dr Evelyn Gitau, Programme Manager, Grand Challenges Africa. “Africa has a wealth of talented innovators who can provide solutions when empowered and adequately funded.”

The funding will also promote intra-African collaboration and promote the sharing of skills and ideas within grand challenges projects. A partnership with Institute Pasteur will also enable AESA to fund additional projects that promote intra-African collaboration.

AESA has established an open, merit based and blind review selection process, where the names and institutions of applications will be hidden from the peer review committee of scientific experts to ensure that the process is fully transparent. Researchers can obtain further information including rules and guidelines and apply for the Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Seed Grants at www.aesa.ac.ke.

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About AESA
The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), an initiative of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency, is an agenda setting and funding platform established to address Africa’s health and development challenges.

Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, AESA focuses on people, places, and programmes in Africa to accelerate world-class research, foster innovation and promote scientific leadership. AESA also builds strategic partnerships and advocates for policies and programmes that will ensure an Africa-led, Africa-centred, and Africa-relevant science and technology agenda on the continent. AESA was launched in 2015 by the AAS and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Agency with the support of the Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Join us on Facebook.com/aesaafrica and Twitter @AAS_AESA and learn more at www.aesa.ac.ke

About the NEPAD Agency
The NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD Agency) is the implementing agency of the African Union that advocates for NEPAD, facilitates and coordinates the development of NEPAD continent-wide programmes and projects, mobilises resources and engages the global community, regional economic communities and member states in the implementation of these programmes and projects. The NEPAD Agency replaced the NEPAD Secretariat, which had coordinated the implementation of NEPAD programmes and projects since 2001.

About Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Dr Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H Gates, Sr, under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet.

Grand Challenges Africa
The Grand Challenges family of initiatives seeks to engage innovators from around the world to solve science, technology and innovation, health and developmental challenges. Grand Challenges initiatives are united by their focus on fostering innovation, directing research to where it will have the most impact, and serving those most in need.
The Grand Challenges Africa scheme is part of the global Grand Challenges family and seeks to promote Africa-led scientific innovations to help countries better achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by awarding seed and scale-up grants to the continent’s most impressive solutions. AESA implements GC Africa in partnership with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Media contacts
Africa and UK
Deborah-Fay Ndlovu
d.ndlovu@aasciences.ac.ke         +254 727 660 760 | +254 20 806 0674