SGCI Phase two

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Framework and Application Guidelines: Malawi and Zimbabwe Call for Collaborative Research Proposals in Agriculture Biotechnology
Call Opening Date: 3 July 2020
Call Closing Date: 3 August 2020

1.0       BACKGROUND

The National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) of the Republic of Malawi and the Research Council of Zimbabwe (RCZ) are participating in Phase Two of the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI). This continuation builds on Phase One’s SGCI objective of seeking to strengthen the capacities of Science Granting Councils (SGCs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to support research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to socio-economic development.

During this phase, NCST and RCZ as SGCs from Malawi and Zimbabwe respectively, will jointly administer a Grant aimed at strengthening Management of Research Competitions and Research on Emerging Technologies and Development in Malawi and Zimbabwe. The Grant will be used to support and manage research in Agricultural Biotechnology conducted in both Malawi and Zimbabwe under the auspices of the SGCI. The Initiative is jointly funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF), and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).


The transition to knowledge-based economies has put the role of knowledge at the pinnacle of trade, investments, manufacturing and socio-economic development. In that regard, the contribution of the knowledge generating organisations, their linkages with the private sector and the potential for knowledge exchange and technology transfer has become central.

Recognising the importance of Agricultural Biotechnology to both Malawi and Zimbabwe and in order to promote the co-creation and exchange of knowledge to boost agricultural productivity in the two countries, the NCST and RCZ have instituted a Collaborative Research Grant in Agricultural Biotechnology. The Grant, in both Malawi and Zimbabwe, has been established with co-funding between the SGCI on one hand and NCST and RCZ on the other hand with the aim of supporting research projects in Agricultural Biotechnology as one of the identified National Research Priority Areas in the two countries.


Researchers in the area of Agriculture Biotechnology in the two countries will collaborate to prepare joint research proposals focusing specifically on either Plant Biotechnology with respect to Crops or/and Animal Biotechnology with focus on Livestock. The SGCI, NCST and RCZ will, therefore, co-fund demand-led, collaborative research projects that address issues of relevance in the area of Agricultural Biotechnology. Project proposals submitted under this call may include, but are not limited to, the following research areas:

  • Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience – Cotton Mealybug, Fall Army Worm and Large Grain Borer;
  • Breeding and Genetics –Multi-disciplinary in nature (Fish Breeding, Artificial Insemination and Molecular Breeding included);
  • Nutrition Research – (Soil Health, Fodder/ Pasture Research included); and
  • Microbial Research


It is expected that interventions of the projects will improve co-creation and exchange of knowledge to boost agricultural productivity in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Projects should also aim within their proposed duration to enhance the capacity of researchers in areas including biosafety and biotechnology research analysis skills.


The budget limit for project activities in the proposal will be not more than MK22, 560, 000 for the research team in Malawi and budget limit for project activities for the research team in Zimbabwe will be USD30, 000. This means that a budget for one joint proposal will have two components: Budget for project activities for the research team in Malawi and a budget for project activities for the research team in Zimbabwe. Collaborative research projects will be implemented for a period not exceeding twenty-six (26) months. Permissible budget items include the following:

  • Material costs, if they are directly linked to the research project, in particular material of enduring value, the cost of expendable items, field expenses, travel expenses or third party charges.
  • Direct costs incurred through the use of research infrastructure linked to the research.
  • Costs of organising conferences and workshops in connection with the funded research.
  • Costs of national and international cooperation and networking activities directly associated with the funded research.

Note:   Salaries of applicants are not eligible costs.


  1. Each proposal must have at least one principal investigator as a main applicant based in Malawi and one Principal Investigator as a main applicant based in Zimbabwe. These are the Principal Investigators on the Malawian and Zimbabwean side, respectively. The Principal Investigators will bear the overall responsibility for the project, including its technical and administrative co-ordination as well as the timely delivery of scientific and financial reports.
  2. Applications are open to bona fide researchers from public research and higher learning institutions in both Malawi and Zimbabwe. Researchers from the Private Sector and Non-profit Organisations registered in Malawi and Zimbabwe are eligible to apply but in collaboration with researchers in public research and higher learning institutions in both Malawi and Zimbabwe.
  3. Support letters from the Malawi and Zimbabwe host institutions of the Principal Investigators are a prerequisite. Proposals without institutional approval through support letters will not be considered.
  4. The Grant will fund only applied research projects in the listed thematic areas. Research proposals shall need to demonstrate the application of scientific principles or basic scientific discoveries to solve real life challenges. Basic or purely theoretical research will not be considered.
  5. Principal Investigators from Higher Education and Learning (HELs) and Agriculture Research Institutions in Malawi and Zimbabwe are eligible to participate in the call. Private sector and other entities can participate as collaborators. Malawian and Zimbabwean Principal Investigators at the point of application must fulfil the following requirements:

i)  Hold a primary appointment in a local publicly funded institution (Minimum of 12 months employment with a local institution in Malawi or Zimbabwe);

ii)  Have done previous research in agricultural biotechnology and have some results published;

iii) Be an independent Principal Investigator with a track record of leadership ability in co-ordinating research                   programmes; and

iv) Providing mentorship to research teams, as well as having productive research outcomes.



These guidelines are provided to researchers to develop proposals for possible funding in Agriculture Biotechnology within the above-mentioned thematic areas. These guidelines must be adhered to as failure to do so will result into the proposals not being reviewed for funding. Submission of a research proposal does not guarantee funding.

A multi-disciplinary inter-institutional group of scientists from the two countries and from the region with skills and experience in Agriculture Biotechnology will be appointed as a Peer Reviewer Committee (PRC). These reviewers may also be called upon to contribute to the assessment of the progress and performance of funded projects.

Collaborative research projects may include the following permissible budget items;

  • Material costs, if they are directly linked to the research project, in particular material of enduring value, the cost of expendable items, field expenses, travel expenses or third party charges.
  • Direct costs incurred through the use of research infrastructure linked to the research.
  • Costs of organising conferences and workshops in connection with the funded research.
  • Costs of national and international cooperation and networking activities directly associated with the funded research.

Note:   Salaries of applicants are not eligible costs.

The maximum duration for the implementation of the funded projects shall not exceed 26 months. Research and outreach projects that show potential for high impact at grass root within the project time line at a reasonable cost will be given high priority. Projects that emphasise technology identification and generation, packaging and dissemination for immediate impact on investment and productivity are encouraged. The applicants are requested to use Times New Roman font, size 12, 1.5 line spacing using the Research Proposal Template (Annexure 1).


      i)     Cross-cutting considerations

The proposal should demonstrate how sex, gender equality and inclusivity, public-private partnerships, risk management and intellectual property issues will be addressed in the project. Research projects led by women Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged. More weight will be given to a team that has female co-investigators during the review and selection process of the projects.

    ii)    Results and Dissemination

Applicants should clearly define the major outputs expected from the research project and describe how the research findings will be disseminated or used. Who are the target audience/ beneficiaries? How will the findings be used to influence policy and practice?  What media engagements plans are envisaged? Indicate how open access will be fostered. Relate the specific dissemination method/approach to the target audience and briefly explain the rationale for the choice of the approach.

       iii)  Team composition from applicant organizations

All individuals who make a significant contribution to the intellectual direction of the research, and who may have some responsibility for financial aspects of the project should be listed. Team members from applicant organisations should be included. It is important to include the field of expertise of each individual, as well as the percentage of their professional time committed to the project. Do not include CVs of the entire research team but include a one or two paged CV for the Principal Investigators. Letters of support from the institutions of the PI should be included.

      iv)   Budget

This should include an explanation and justification for each line item in the detailed budget spreadsheet. The maximum budget is as stated in section 5.0 above. Presentation of detailed budgets is a must. Any personnel costs should include a clarification of the roles and responsibilities of key researchers and percentage of time devoted to the project. The research grant will not cover salaries for the project team members. All rates to be used for the budgeting purpose are the ones acceptable by the respective institutions of the Principal Investigators hosting the projects.  Some of the project downstream budgetary items could include the following:

  • Research specific costs including cost of equipment;
  • Costs associated with human resources;
  • Capacity building e.g. postgraduate;
  • International and local travel;
  • Monitoring and evaluation; and
  • Dissemination of research results.

     v)   Project Governance

Briefly explain how the project will be governed. What is the composition of the research team, their qualifications and specific roles in the proposed project?  Describe how any partnership is planned with other universities/ research institutes? How will the private sector or beneficiaries be involved in the design/management/execution of the project? What is the role of the university’s/institute’s management (if any) and how might this governance structure influence the success of the programme?

     vi)  Proposed Project Timeline

Provide a chart of key activities, timelines and key milestones.

     vii) Monitoring and Evaluation

NCST and RCZ, in collaboration with host institutions from Malawi and Zimbabwe, will be responsible for monitoring and evaluation. Successful applicants will be provided with monitoring and evaluation templates.

     viii) Ethical clearance

Where the project involves human participants and animal subjects, the Principal Investigator in the respective country shall obtain ethical clearance from an appropriate NCST and RCZ designated research ethics committee before any grant disbursement and implementation of the project. NCST and RCZ will also ensure that the ethically cleared research projects have been inspected for ethical compliance in the field besides the ordinary monitoring and evaluation.


Submission of an application package should be in a form of electronic copy. The deadline for submission is 3rd August, 2020 at 16:30 Central Africa Time. Application package shall include full proposal as specified above; Principal Investigator’s covering letter; letter of support from an institution of the Principal Investigator. Applications received after the deadline will not be included in the evaluation. When the full application package is duly completed save the document as ‘last name of Principal Investigator-NCST-RCZ Call for Proposals 2020”. The electronic copy should be in both PDF and Microsoft Word formats.

i) The full proposals should be submitted electronically to both and with a copy to  and  at NCST and a copy to  and at RCZ with the subject heading: “Full Proposal in Agricultural Biotechnology Research” clearly specified.

ii) All proposals must be submitted in the prescribed template and will be reviewed based on their quality and merit. A full proposal template is downloadable on and on

iii) All documents (full research proposal, CV, detailed budget, support letters) have to be submitted in both PDF and MS Word files. Proposals should not exceed fifteen (15) pages, using 1.5 spacing and font size 12 Times New Roman (Refer to the proposal template for other details).

iv) Applicants will be required to submit full proposals which will be screened for completeness by both NCST and RCZ before a rigorous confidential review by an independent panel of experts.

V) The evaluation and selection of proposals will comprise verification of the proposal eligibility, short listing of reviewed research proposals and communication of the review outcomes to applicants by 30 September 2020.

Vi) All proposals will be received and processed in confidence and with complete acknowledgment of Intellectual Property Rights of the proponents.

Vii) NCST and RCZ’s decisions will be final.


Any enquiries from Malawi researchers should be directed to  and while enquiries from Zimbabwe researchers should be sent to and