Phase Two of the RISA Project launched in Accra

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Madam Harriet Thompson

The British High Commissioner to Ghana, Ms Harriet Thompson, Friday, launched the second phase of a UK’s support programme for Research and Innovation Systems for Africa (RISA) project in Accra.

The project, which was introduced in 2021, is to support and strengthen research and innovation systems in Africa to tackle the most complex social, economic and health challenges bedeviling the continent.

Known as the RISA Fund, the project seeks to provide research institutions, think tanks, universities, as well as private sector organisations and international national Non-Governmental Organisations, competitive grants for research and innovation purposes.

The three years project, expected to run from July 2021 to 2024, is being implemented in six countries – Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa and Ethiopia- with funding from the UKAid.

It is to achieve three key objectives – strengthening research institutions and systems to produce relevant, high-quality research, and to create an enabling environment for researchers and research organisations; strengthening innovation systems to scale up new and emerging technologies with high potential for poverty reduction and inclusive growth; and strengthening synergies between research and innovation systems to identify and support linkages between research and innovation systems that will improve integration and coordination.

Aside these, the programme seeks to build intellectual capital in targeted countries, diversify innovation and research talent pools, provide access to financing and support networking to facilitate relationships within national research communities.

Launching the second phase of the project in Accra, Ms Thompson said the UK appreciated African government’s efforts in recognising the importance of science and innovation in building economies and recovering from the pandemic.

The UK government, she said, hoped to accelerate that growth and recovery by strengthening science and innovation linkages between African countries and the UK.

“We want to deepen our partnerships and provide more opportunities to collaborate as we work together towards shared development objectives,” she emphasised.

The High Commissioner said to deepen those partnerships, the UK established the RISA Fund in 2021 to strengthen research and innovation ecosystems, including the critical linkages between such ecosystems in Africa.

“Through this fund, the UK Government works with our partners such as the Government of Ghana to strengthen the enablers for new and emerging technologies with high potential for poverty reduction and inclusive growth to accelerate their scale up,” she explained.

“RISA aims to strengthen ecosystems in the research and tech sectors at both the micro and macro levels. In the two West African countries participating, Ghana and Nigeria, there’s been clear growth in the linkages between actors in the research and innovation systems in sectors like agriculture, SMEs, and health,” she said.

Currently, there are over 120 UK funded partnerships between Ghana and the UK, spanning diverse topics ranging from crop fields to air quality, peace, digital diagnosis and poverty.

She urged interested persons to put up innovative proposals by the end of July 31 for funding through the next phase.

Dr Kwaku Afriyie, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Oliver Boachie, his Special Advisor, lauded the UK Government for such a programme.

He said the project was in line with measures taken by the Government, through MESTI to strengthen Ghana’s research and innovation ecosystem.

“We see the participation of MESTI in the RISA programme as an opportunity to analyse Ghana’s innovative ecosystem and also as an important tool for the Government of Ghana to promote technology and innovation in the country,” he said.

“In the end, it is our aim that the character of the nation, the mindset of our people and the engine of Ghana’s economy will all be driven by innovation.”

Mr Chikodi Onyemerela, Acting Country Director, British Council, said challenges facing the continent could only be addressed through consistent, focused and the evaluation of research and innovation output, as well as, supporting the system that enable the commercialisation of research.

He, therefore, urged research institutions and individuals to take advantage of the project to develop problem-solving solutions for the continent.

Madam Irene Karimi, Team Leader, RISA Fund, commended the first cohort of the programme for ensuring that phase one was a success.

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