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Grants Management & Systems Administration (GMSA)

The NRF supports students, mainly at postgraduate level, in two different ways:

  • Free-standing scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships, for which students/postdoctoral research fellows apply online and compete individually on merit.
  • Grantholder-linked bursaries and postdoctoral fellowships, where a grantholder is awarded a number of bursaries and fellowships within his/her research grant. The grantholder is responsible for selecting the most appropriate and worthy students/fellows for the bursaries and fellowship.

Freestanding Scholarships & Fellowships

Free-standing scholarships and fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis directly to students undertaking full-time study. Students must apply for these awards themselves and remain responsible for the submission of all required documentation.

These scholarships are targeted at SA citizens and permanent residents only with the following exceptions:

  • Postdoctoral fellowships allow applications from all nationalities and are awarded to applications of any nationality, based on a pre-determined quota, and the awarded funds have to be used in South Africa.
  • Innovation scholarships allow applications both South African citizens,  permanent residents and foreign nationals

Postdoctoral fellowships - Fellows who have obtained their PhD within the last five years may apply. Applicants who wish to undertake postdoctoral training through their PhD institution, PhD supervisor or current institution must submit a special motivation providing reasons for remaining at the same institution.

Prestigious and Equity Scholarships/Fellowships

These scholarships are available for full-time study from Honours/BTech level to postdoctoral fellowship level in South Africa.

Scarce Skills Development Fund Scholarships/Fellowships

This scholarship aims at addressing the shortage of qualified graduates in certain identified key areas of in the biological, medical, mathematical and natural sciences, financial management, information technology and computer sciences, engineering, demography and tourism.

Innovation Scholarships/Fellowships

This scholarship was developed to support graduates looking to further their studies in the science, engineering and technology (SET) as well as in the social sciences and humanities (SSH).  The scholarships are awarded for Honours, Masters and doctoral studies in South Africa as well as for doctoral studies abroad.

DAAD/NRF Joint In-country Scholarships

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in partnership with the NRF offers a scholarship aimed at the development of university staff as well as other sectors requiring academically trained personnel. The programme addresses candidates who are acquiring their Master’s or doctoral degrees.

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Scholarships (RSES)

The RSES scholarship is designed to enhance science, engineering and technology (SET) enrolment into postgraduate studies (Master’s and PhD) in the following areas:

·         Energy infrastructure optimisation

  • Energy efficiency and demand side management
  • Understanding the impact of energy use on the environment
  • The role of energy in stimulating socio-economic development
  • Cleaner fossil fuel development, including clean coal technologies
  • Renewable energy
  • Energy planning and modelling
  • Energy policy research
  • Alternative energy

Doctoral Studies in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DSEE)

This opportunity is made available to students who wish to pursue a doctoral degree in energy efficiency at Concordia University in Canada. 

South African Nuclear Human Asset and Research Programme (SANHARP) Scholarships

SANHARP’s aim is to expand the skills and research capacity of the nuclear industry, supporting mathematics and science learners who are part of the Energy Human Capital Development & Knowledge Generation Programme as well as undergraduate and postgraduate studies at universities.

Professional Development Programme (PDP)

The PDP is aimed at creating an opportunity for research institutions such as science councils, National Research Facilities and museums to attract, retain and train young scientists at doctoral and postdoctoral level within their strategic research programmes and projects.

Grantholder-linked Bursaries

Grantholder-linked bursaries, where a grantholder is awarded a number of bursaries within his/her research grant. The grantholder is responsible for selecting the most appropriate and worthy students for the bursaries

African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP)

ACEP is a research platform that aims to provide access to research infrastructure (e.g. ship’s time, remote operated vehicles, dive teams etc.) and associated funding for the research community to undertake research along the east coast of South Africa.

African Origins Platform (AOP) Strategy

AOP Strategy provides direction for a holistic approach towards the development of palaeosciences and related disciplines. This strategy addresses issues of public engagement, human resources, challenges faced by universities and museums as research institutions and repositories for collections, and the legal landscape and tourism development in palaeosciences.

Blue Skies Research Programme

This is a highly competitive funding instrument that aims to bring about new and unpredictable scientific/technological/scholarly discoveries. It provides the space for novel fundamental inquiry that can be described as multi-dimensional, self-initiated and curiosity-driven, necessitating high investment risks, addressing new phenomena, and pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge

Centres of Excellence (CoE)

The applicant must be an established researcher and hold a Doctoral degree, and must have a strong network of collaborators and fellow researchers working in similar and different, but related research fields. The network must span departments, schools and institutions and have an excellent and extended track record of research outputs.

Community Engagement Programme

The Community Engagement Programme is a competitive funding instrument providing the space for research that contributes both to knowledge production within the ambit of community engagement (where ‘community’ is defined in its broadest sense), as well as to research on the processes and dynamics of engagement from the perspective of the higher education sector.

Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (CPRR)

The CPRR is a discipline-based funding instrument that supports mainly basic research as the foundation of knowledge production in the Humanities, Social and Natural Sciences. As a competitive funding instrument, the main eligibility criteria are:

  • The current NRF rating of the principal applicant; and
  • The scientific merit of the research proposal.

Competitive Support for Unrated Researchers (CSUR)

The aim of this funding instrument is to provide research support to researchers, working in any research field, who do not, for a variety of reasons, hold a current NRF rating and who are not participating in any of the NRF capacity development funding instruments. The strategic objectives of CSUR are to:

  • Strengthen the nation’s research base;
  • Increase the nation’s research outputs; and
  • Support the training of postgraduate students.

Education Research in South Africa

The Call for funding for Education Research in South Africa seeks research proposals that address:

  • The overarching theme of ‘Teaching and learning interactions that shape the qualitative outcomes of education’ at all levels of the education and training system
  • National priorities in South Africa (a strong indication must be provided)
  • Systemic implications (either through large-scale empirical research or meta-analyses of past/existing small-scale research projects)

Only proposals submitted by consortia reflecting certain minimum conditions will be accepted.

Equipment-related Travel and Training Grants

Funds are available for both national and international travel in order to support researchers who require access to equipment that is not available either regionally and/or nationally. The mobility grants are divided into two portfolios of opportunities, namely Equipment-related Travel Grants and Equipment-related Training Grants.

Global Change, Society and Sustainability Research Programme (GCSSRP)

GCSSRP is a long-term large-scale structured and coordinated research funding instrument implemented to address the identified fundamental research questions and provide research-based evidence required for socioeconomic development, sustainability and social cohesion.

Human Capital Development for Multi-Wavelength Astronomy

This funding instrument is aimed at researchers at South African higher education institutions or national research facilities working under the rubric of multi-wavelength astronomy, including optical and gamma-ray astronomy and the supporting theory.

Incentive Funding for Rated Researchers (IFRR)

The IFRR funding instrument was created with the aim of incentivising excellent research. The collateral objectives of the funding instrument include encouraging researchers to:

  • Subject themselves for rating;
  • Maintain their ratings
  • Attain ever higher ratings until they reach the top rating

Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS)

Applicants must respond to one of the following funding instruments:

  • IKS and Bio-economy (African Traditional Medicine; Food Security; or Cosmetics)
  • IKS Epistemology (Ubuntu and Cosmology; or Taxonomies, Pedagogies, Methodologies)
  • IKS and Climate Change
  • IKS and Energy
  • IKS Practices of the Khoi, Nama, Griqua and San communities
  • Novel and creative thinking that will shift the boundaries of IKS knowledge production and address national priorities in South Africa.

International Research Grants

These grants are aimed at collaborative research in a country that is a signatory to a binational or bilateral agreement between the NRF and a funding agency in that country (e.g. the NRF-CNRS Agreement with France).

Knowledge Fields Development (KFD)

The NRF’s Knowledge Fields Development Directorate identifies and coordinates a number of knowledge fields development activities for implementation each year supported through short-term once-off grants.

Knowledge Interchange and Collaboration (KIC)

The KIC funding instrument offers researchers funding for local or international travel; support grants to host an event such as a conference or symposium; and mobility grants to support local or international travel for research or training on specific equipment that is not available in the applicant’s institution or in South Africa, and is not supported by the NRF’s Equipment-related Travel and Training Grants funding instrument.

Nanotechnology Flagships Project (NFP) for Emerging Researchers

This funding instrument award 3-year development grants to early career researchers in the field of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology.

Research Career Advancement Fellowships

These fellowships are aimed at supporting the training of individuals for research leadership in all areas of Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematical Sciences (STEM) at public universities.

Research Infrastructure Support Programmes (RISP)

RISP supports the acquisition, maintenance and development of state-of-the-art research equipment.

Sabbatical Grants for Completion of Doctoral Degrees

This is a special intervention aimed at addressing the decline in the number of full-time university academic staff with a Doctoral degree and the inadequate supervisory capacity that currently characterises the South African academic landscape. It seeks to accelerate the training of Doctoral candidates in order to improve the qualifications of employed academics and enhance their research and supervisory capacity and is aimed at addressing this problem for individuals in the final stages of their Doctoral studies.

South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP)

SANAP supports research in the Southern Ocean, including the Southern Ocean islands (Marion Island, Prince Edward Island and Gough Island) and Antarctica in the fields of Earth Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Life Sciences, Oceanographic Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences, Law and Humanities.

South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI)

SARChI is a strategic intervention of the South African government designed to attract and retain excellence in research and innovation at SA universities. In particular, it is aimed at increasing scientific research capacity by developing human capacity and stimulating the generation of new knowledge. It is also intended to support the realisation of SA’s transformation into a knowledge economy in which the generation of knowledge translates into socioeconomic benefits.

Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP)

To qualify, the proposed project must be a high-quality Science, Engineering and/or Technology research project with financial support from an industry partner (preferably an SMME). Further information may be found in the THRIP Multi-criteria Decision Model (MCDM), which is obtainable from THRIP staff at the NRF (see contact details at the end of this booklet).

Thuthuka Funding Instrument

Thuthuka aims to develop human capital and to improve the research capacities of designated researchers (black [African, Indian or Coloured], female or persons with disabilities) with the ultimate aim of redressing historical imbalances.

HSRC-NRF Scholarships in Labour Market Research

This is a joint Human Sciences Research Council and NRF scholarship to support research into the field of labour and labour markets.


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