The NRF receives its mandate from the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998). According to Section 3 of the Act, the objective 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 research, including indigenous knowledge,

and thereby to contribute to

the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of the Republic.