Second Grand Challenges Africa offers a chance to ‘scale up’

Innovators in African universities and research institutions have until the end of June to apply for funding to scale up their innovations, thanks to the second Grand Challenges Africa (GCA) initiative, which will finance prototypes to the tune of US$4 million.

Coming at a time when the world is battling the deadly COVID-19 disease, the “Transition to Scale” call issued last week will prioritise innovations that seek solutions to both Africa’s health problems and development challenges. Non-profit institutions including universities, research bodies and private companies are the target.

With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), successful projects will receive between US$100,000 and US$1 million aimed at moving them from laboratories and workshops to the people, according to a statement by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) which will implement the initiative.

“We are fully committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through rapidly scaling up and harnessing bold scientific innovations that show potential to provide sustainable solutions to complex health and developmental challenges faced by African countries,” said the statement quoting AAS Executive Director Nelson Torto.

Innovators with ideas focused on health and wellbeing, environmental and climate change, social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and policy and governance “who are positioned to scale up their innovative solutions for the attainment of the SDGs” are encouraged to submit their applications, it added.

Those selected will also benefit from mentorship, training and opportunities for forging collaborations and networking with various parties.

Awards to the selected innovations will be in the form of grants or as a “blend between grant and a debt”, the AAS noted.

Final applications will be evaluated by the Grand Challenges Africa decision committee based on criteria such as integrated innovation, impact, entrepreneurship, smart partnerships, sustainability, execution and compliance.

Applicants must be innovators or principal investigators who are African citizens or residents of the continent and have the option of having a foreign collaborator.

However, where there is international ownership, the local collaborator or investigator should have “adequate control to make executive decisions about the project”, and should demonstrate a strong grip of research expertise and ownership of the venture.

At the same time most of the activities and budget spend must be in an African country or countries.