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About Strategic Partnerships

The establishment of the Strategy, Planning and Partnerships (SPP) Business Unit and the concomitant Strategic Partnerships (SP) Directorate assists the National Research Foundation (NRF) in achieving its mandate to lead a robust and highly focussed human capital pipeline for optimal results and impact within the scope of the NRF’s mandate.

The key responsibility of SP is to cultivate, sustain and expand strategic partnerships of the NRF and South Africa, both locally and internationally, to support the NRF’s mandate. This includes a deliberate focus on the rest of Africa and the Global South.

The partnership imperative must contribute to the realisation of the socio-economic impact of investments in science, technology and innovation (STI), as envisioned in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA 2024). Planning for impact, leveraging international partnerships strategically, and measuring the impact of investments are discourses that the case for engagement must sustain.

Powerful and well-resourced trans- and interdisciplinary collaborations and research partnerships have the potential to provide high impact platforms from which evidence-based solutions for critical challenges can be identified.

Strategic Intent

  • Source and support strategic partnerships aligned with the NRF’s mandate.
  • Contribute towards a fundamental change in investment of the human development pipeline – leapfrog strategies (human and institutional).
  • Mobilise and leverage resources in support of the NRF policy framework.
  • Advise on organisation-wide partnership policy.


  • Forge networks and partnerships with government, the private sector, research performing institutions, development partners and other stakeholders.
  • Position the organisation as a partner of choice.
  • Support and facilitate South Africa’s engagement in the global science system.
  • Leverage additional resources to drive the system, incorporating mutual benefit and not only limited to financial investments.

Key focus areas

1. Global organisations and adherence

In order to fulfil the NRF Strategic Objectives of i) promoting globally competitive research and innovation and ii) enhancing strategic international objectives, the NRF maintains membership of many global organisations and contributes and adheres to membership outcomes. For example, membership of the Global Research Council presents opportunities for African Science Granting Councils (SCGs) to contribute to the collective shaping of principles on effective and efficient implementation of SGC national mandates in an increasingly trans-boundary world.

2. Strategic alliances and partnerships

Strategic global, regional and national collaborations and partnerships are increasingly becoming significant in driving science, technology and innovation (STI) endeavours, especially in a global environment that is continuously facing common developmental challenges. For publicly funded science granting councils (SGC), this environment presents opportunities to engage in bi- and multilateral strategic, directed alliances and engagements to leverage resources, and internationalise their national research platforms. South Africa and the continent’s SGCs will continue to benefit from the existence of partnerships such as the GRC and the Science Granting Council Initiative (SGCI) in Sub-Saharan Africa as a broker of these engagements. 

3. Promotion, positioning, resource mobilisation

The Strategic Objective of growing NRF influence, impact and reputation requires promotion of the organisation at the highest levels, positioning the NRF as a partner of choice and enabling the mobilisation of resources to fulfil STI endeavours. The NRF’s robust and internationally recognised funding systems position it as a leading funding agency in Africa, using this competitive advantage to accelerate engagements between countries on the African Continent in collaboration with international partners.