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Short history of the National Research Foundation

The NRF is an independent statutory body established through the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998), following a system-wide review conducted for the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST). The new entity incorporated the functions of the research funding agencies that were previously servicing various sections of the research community, namely the former Centre for Science Development (CSD) of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the former Foundation for Research Development (FRD) that included several National Research Facilities.

As a government mandated research and science development agency the NRF funds research, the development of high-end Human Capacity and critical research infrastructure to promote knowledge production across all disciplinary fields. The goal of the NRF is to create innovative funding instruments, advance research career development, increase public science engagement and to establish leading-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape and inspire a representative research community to aspire to global competitiveness. The NRF promotes South African research interests across the country and internationally, and together with research institutions, business, industry and international partners we build bridges between research communities for mutual benefit.

Mandate of the NRF

The NRF receives its mandate from the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998). According to Section 3 of the Act, the object of the NRF is to:

promote and support research
through funding, human resource development and the provision of the necessary facilities

in order to facilitate
the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge,

and thereby contribute to
the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of the Republic.

NRF Strategic Plan 2015 - 2020

In the new NRF Strategy 2020, the organisation places renewed emphasis on the agency function of the NRF and its role as a policy implementer within the National System of Innovation (NSI). Playing a critical integration role across the public entities within the Science and Technology sector, the NRF as the agency of government has the ability to catalyse focussed societally beneficial research and development in support of knowledge generation, human capacity development, and innovation.

The NRF Strategy 2020 is based on four core tenets:

  • Transformation
  • Excellence
  • Service Culture
  • Sustainability

NRF mission statement

To contribute to the knowledge economy in South Africa by attaining at least 1% of global research and development (R&D) output by 2020.

Corporate values

  • Passion for excellence
  • World-class service
  • Ethics and Integrity
  • Respect
  • People-centered
  • Accountability

Strategic goals

The NRF adopted the following broad strategic goals:

  • An internationally competitive and transformative research system;
  • Leading-edge research and infrastructure platforms;
  • A representative research and technical workforce in South Africa;
  • A scientifically literate and engaged society;
  • World-class benchmarking and grant-making systems; and
  • A vibrant and globally connected national system of innovation.

Core competencies of the NRF

The core competencies of the NRF are embedded in: 

  • Leading-edge grant management systems;
  • World-class research evaluation and benchmarking practices;
  • Science and technology management expertise;
  • State-of-the-art research platforms;
  • Specialised research capacity at the National Research Facilities;
  • Strategic information management and dissemination systems;
  • Capacity to catalyse local and international science cooperation, networks and partnerships; and
  • Science advancement expertise and platforms.