STFC, NRF Announce Funding for Two Flagship African Partnerships

STFC, NRF Announce Funding for Two Flagship African Partnerships

The National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) of the United Kingdom, are delighted to announce a new global research network that will advance crucial physics in topics such as radio astronomy and sustainable energy. A total of £25m will fund collaborations between the STFC and institutions in the UK, South Africa and across Africa.

The programmes, which will also be supported by the NRF and the Institute of Physics (IoP) in the UK and Ireland, among other institutes, are:

  • The Research Infrastructure Partnership Programme (RIPP)
  • The Africa-UK Physics Partnership Programme

These are the latest programmes funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the International Science Partnerships Fund (ISPF).

Global research networks

The Research Infrastructure Partnership Programme (RIPP) will facilitate lab-to-lab collaborations between NRF and STFC facilities. These will develop international physics capacity through activities such as:

  • Training opportunities
  • staff exchanges
  • collaborative research.

The programme, along with the STFC’s investment, will also promote physics-related research and development between South African and UK universities, with a focus on assisting in the NRF’s Transformation agenda to support historically disadvantaged institutions in South Africa.

The investment builds on an MoU signed by STFC and NRF in April 2021.

Dr Angus Paterson, Acting Deputy CEO for National Research Infrastructure Platforms at the NRF, said, “The NRF is delighted to be working with UKRI STFC on the various programmes. The linking of key South African research platforms to those within the STFC is very exciting and will lead to staff exchanges, training opportunities and, most importantly, innovative research”.

The future of astronomy

Investment in RIPP will also support the continuation of the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA) and DARA Big Data initiatives in a new combined initiative led by the University of Leeds.

DARA combines leading expertise from the UK and South Africa to build radio astronomy and data science expertise in the host countries of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory.

RIPP will enable DARA to deliver high-tech skills training in several African countries to help ensure that their citizens can contribute to one of the most ambitious international science collaborations in history.

In doing so, it will continue to deliver real-world impact in these countries by improving opportunities and outcomes for local researchers.

Energy and climate science

The Africa-UK Physics Partnership Programme is a collaboration between STFC and the UK Institute of Physics (IOP). It has been developed in response to analysis by IOP in 2019 which found that only around 5% of research programmes across sub-Saharan Africa involved physics. This was identified by IOP as a critical issue for the field, given the proven, wide-reaching benefits of strong international networks within physics research, especially in the fields of energy, climate, and weather.

To address this, the UK and seven African countries will work in partnership to build and sustain a skilled cohort of STEM graduates through activities such as network building and providing access to leading UK research facilities.

Their aim is to foster mutually beneficial UK-African collaborations to meet the future science, technology and policy challenges of climate change and sustainable energy.

Rachel Youngman, Deputy Chief Executive, Institute of Physics, said, “We are delighted to hear that STFC has committed to funding a new UK-Africa Physics Partnership programme.”

“The impact of climate change in Africa is visible with the devastating effect it is having on communities and livelihoods.  Physics has a central role in finding solutions and in the UK, we have much to learn from tackling climate change in Africa.”

“Until now though, funding for physics in African universities has been lagging behind other sciences and this has impacted capacity to undertake vital research and innovation.”

“It is great news that physics is being recognised for the vital role it plays in climate, weather, and energy solutions. This funding is going to support valuable opportunities for UK and African physicists to work on solutions and learn from each other.”

Making ambitious science possible

Professor Mark Thomson, Executive Chair of STFC, said, “I am delighted to announce the continuation of our work with the National Research Foundation and Institute of Physics to advance physics in Africa and support crucial research efforts from astronomy to climate science.”

“We are extremely proud of our International Science Partnerships Fund programmes which are helping to develop stronger physics research networks the world over for the benefit of the entire field.”

“Now more than ever, physics is a necessarily international endeavour and partnerships such as these are essential to ensure that leading minds in the UK, Africa, and beyond can collaborate effectively on ambitious global projects such as the Square Kilometre Array.”

Related Posts