Person Holding Laboratory Flask
Person Holding Laboratory Flask. Representational Image. Chokniti Khongchum/

The National Research Foundation (NRF) announced its decision to increase annual grants for postdoctoral professionals to encourage research and development activities in the country.

The new cohort embarking on Freestanding, Innovation, and Scarce Skills (FISS), as well as grant holder-linked postdoctoral fellowships will receive increased funding from 2024.

Postdoctoral fellowship programs will help to provide increased grants for young scientists and the highest caliber professionals for postdoctoral research training and international exposure to enhance their research profiles and boost their careers.

As per the agency's statement, these "individuals have completed their doctoral degree studies and are working towards developing their careers as academic researchers."

The implementation of the new Department of Science and Innovation-NRF Postgraduate Student Funding policy in 2023 has led to a significant increase in the funding value of honors, masters and doctoral students to R180 735, R202 004 and R223 273 at the full cost of study, respectively. However, postdoctoral fellowship grants remained stagnant, resulting in the current revision of grants.

The new adjustments will increase non-taxable annual stipends of NRF-funded postdoctoral fellows to R320 000 from the current range of R200,000 to R255,000. However, the annual research grant remains unchanged at R50,000.

"...Continuing postdoctoral fellowships that started in 2023 and are in their second or third year of funding will still utilize the old values and their original conditions of grant will still apply," the agency added.

Dr. Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, CEO of NRF, explained that the agency supports postdoctoral fellowships to encourage development in research and development in all fields including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and the Social Sciences and Humanities.

Nelwamondo said that the NRF understands the importance of these fellowships that are aimed at "providing a comprehensive training, development and mentorship program for the establishment of an independent researcher involved in engaged research."

"We trust that the increased values of the FISS Postdoctoral Fellowships and grantholder-linked will make an added contribution in increasing the number and quality of Postdoctoral Research Fellows in South Africa in all fields of research," he added.

South Africa is focusing on higher education in the country. Previously, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the Presidential PhD Initiative, which received an initial investment of R1 billion from the National Skills Fund, to boost innovation in South Africa.

South Africa's gross expenditure on R&D was 0.6% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2021, lower than the targeted 1.5%. Whereas, the United States spent 2.6% and South Korea spent 5% of their respective GDPs on R&D.