The Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), an initiative of the African Academy of Sciences and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has launched the Grand Challenges Africa programme.

Through the programme, the partners will provide a $7 million grant focussed on fostering innovation and accelerating scientific breakthroughs that will improve Africa’s key health and developmental outcomes.

The Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Grants will run for the next five years and will solicit ideas that can be developed into ground-breaking research and innovations. This will be achieved by providing up to $100,000 in Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Seed Grants for two years to each of the up to 40 projects that will be funded over the five years the scheme will run.

“Solutions for Africa’s challenges do exist within the continent. As an African grant-making body, we are laser-focused on tapping the best minds on the continent to develop innovative local solutions to our health and development challenges,” said Director at AESA, Dr Tom Kariuki.

The grants will fund innovators resident in Africa with any level of experience, working in any discipline in colleges, universities, government laboratories, research institutions and non-governmental and non-profit organisations.

Innovations, which receive the $100,000 seed grants and show promise for scaling up, will be eligible to apply for additional funding of up to $1 million.

The first call for proposals is focused on innovators seeking solutions and strategies to help Africa meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs) target for maternal, new-born and child health.

These cover key areas of new technologies to enable rapid identification of exposures that lead to poor outcomes in pregnancy, birth and in the first month of life – these could be exposures to communicable and non-communicable diseases.

It also includes precision medicine approaches and techniques to identify microbes and other exposures in Africa that may increase susceptibility to non-communicable diseases (cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc.) in mothers and children under five years old.

“While great strides have been made in reducing mortality in Africa, maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain unacceptably high. We are seeking bold new ideas with potential for enormous impact in Africa, so that mothers and children not only survive, but thrive,” said Dr Kariuki.

The new grant also aims to complement existing global efforts and ignite more African funding for R&D to fast-track scientific breakthroughs for reducing Africa’s disease burden, by funding revolutionary approaches that will lead to African organisations and governments committing more funding to catalyse R&D and innovation.

“We also hope to motivate and mobilise government support and increased investment for R&D to ensure the sustained development and commercialisation of novel solutions to transform the future for a huge part of our population,” said Grand Challenges Africa Programme Manager, Dr Evelyn Gitau.

“Africa has a wealth of talented innovators who can provide solutions when empowered and adequately funded,” continued Dr Gitau.

Researchers can obtain further information, including rules and guidelines, and apply for the Grand Challenges Africa Innovation Seed Grants here.

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