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Cambridge Global Challenges


Cambridge-Africa is being invited to many meetings about how Cambridge should respond to different Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) calls. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to attend all of these meetings. Nonetheless, if required, we would want to provide advice/support for any Africa-linked GCRF proposal that includes the ambition to deliver a significant African research capacity building programme within an equitable partnership. 

Please read the note below and get in touch with Professor David Dunne (Cambridge-Africa programme Director; or with Dr Pauline Essah (Cambridge-Africa programme Manager; if you wish to discuss a capacity building component for your Africa-linked proposal. 



Cambridge-Africa programme for research capacity building; a potential contribution to GCRF Hub proposals

Proposals to the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Hub’s SECOND COLLECTIVE FUND CALL are required to include plans for strengthening capacity for research and innovation in developing countries. This is likely to be a requirement for all large-scale GCRF calls. It will benefit proposals to show a track-record of equitable UK/LMIC (Low and Middle Income Country) partnerships that have been responsive to LMIC priorities, with proven sustainable research capacity development programmes.

Cambridge-Africa (C-A) was established in 2008 to make Cambridge’s world-class expertise, facilities and influence, across all disciplines, readily available to support African researchers and research institutions working on African priorities in Africa. C-A has a high-profile track-record for successfully supporting indigenous African research, with partners across many disciplines in many African countries. C-A can bring this record and experience to support any Cambridge GCRF Hub proposal by providing appropriate scale African capacity building programmes within the Hub’s wider research strategy.

C-A’s reputation for capacity building and equitable partnerships is built on a range of successful models, the designs of which vary according to partner needs and funder requirements. However, C-A’s main focus is on supporting PhD projects and postdoctoral research career development in African universities with Cambridge mentorship and equitable collaborations. The CAPREx programme for African post-doctoral career development, is an example of a proven C-A model that could be adapted as part of any large-scale Global Challenge proposal.


Cambridge-Africa Partnership for Research Excellence – CAPREx

CAPREx (2012-2018) is a Cambridge-Africa initiative to strengthen African post-doctoral research excellence. It is a three-way partnership between Cambridge, Makerere University in Uganda and the University of Ghana, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and other funders. So far it has allowed Cambridge researchers to mentor and collaborate with 65 early career African research fellows, and 12 research administrator fellows, to address important research gaps in the African partner universities.

CAPREx matches competitively-selected African post-doctoral researchers to highly experienced and successful Cambridge collaborators (including at the Sanger Institute and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany – NIAB). These C-A post-doctoral fellows work on research projects they have proposed and then developed with Cambridge collaborators. Visits to Cambridge provide tailor-made training/mentoring, new skills and international experience, which with reciprocal Cambridge collaborator visits to Africa, strengthen African research groups in their home universities. CAPREx is equipping African fellows and their institutions with skills, opportunities, networks, and the vision to successfully address both local African and global challenges. The fellows are becoming drivers of research excellence, providing evidence-based policies to benefit Africa. This highly successful scheme is now influencing funders, international academia, governments and industry, and has led to important academic outputs, ongoing collaborative relationships, and significant external competitive funding.

CAPREx is an established and proven capacity building programme. It can be adapted, refined and implemented by C-A on behalf of, and in partnership with, any Cambridge large-scale GCRF application, in any subject area. CAPREx will facilitate African input and ideas into projects to be developed jointly with Cambridge collaborators to achieve: global challenge goals, African researcher career development, and African institutional research capacity strengthening, to build sustainability in priority areas.

Successful C-A PhD schemes can be similarly adapted. Such PhD schemes are major components of C-A’s THRiVE and MUII partnerships.

CAPREx fellows supported by GCRF would also be eligible to compete, jointly with their Cambridge mentors/collaborators, for the annual ALBORADA Research Fund awards. This Cambridge-Africa research fund could extend their collaborative research, providing added value for GCRF investments in Cambridge proposals.


CAPREx’s Track-record 

  • 65 post-doctoral fellowships, competitively awarded, and gender-balanced.
  • Academic research areas: arts, social sciences & humanities; technology; biological, physical and medical sciences.

Recorded metrics include:

  • Peer-reviewed journal papers/book publications;
  • Presentations by African fellows at international conferences;
  • CAPREx fellows promoted to institutional leadership, including Deputy Vice- Chancellor;
  • Competitive international funding and prizes awarded jointly to African fellows and their Cambridge collaborators;
  • 100% retention rate for CAPREx fellows in their African universities.


Cambridge-Africa’s Track-record 

  1. Leverage of £11.9M of funding to Cambridge for C-A research support activities and African PhD scholarships in Cambridge, plus £23.47M directly to African partners for African research capacity building.
  2. Strengthening research capacity in African partner universities, enhancing international competitiveness profiles, embedding positive mentoring cultures:
  • Training courses in leadership, communication and grant writing in Africa.
  • Research training workshops organised by fellows and Cambridge collaborators in Africa, Cambridge lectures in Africa and by live video link from Cambridge.
  • ‘Visiting African Researcher Seminar Showcase’ events in Cambridge.
  1. Strengthening institutional research management/administration: Bespoke training in Uganda and Ghana by Cambridge Research Operations Office. Seventy-one Ghana/Uganda staff trained for full grant life cycle management. Visits to Cambridge visits for training, work shadowing, grant processing.

Details and cost estimates for African PhD and post-doctoral fellowship schemes are available by discussion with Dr Pauline Essah and Professor David Dunne.

Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

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