South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI)

SARChI Objectives

The main goal of the initiative is to strengthen and improve research and innovation capacity of public universities for producing high quality postgraduate students, research, and innovation outputs. Some of the objectives of SARChI are to:

  • Expand the scientific research and innovation capacity of South Africa;
  • Improve South Africa‚Äüs international research and innovation competitiveness while responding to social and economic challenges of the country;
  • Attract and retain excellent researchers and scientists;
  • Increase the production of masters and doctoral graduates; and
  • Create research career pathways for young and mid-career researchers, with a strong research, innovation and human capital development output trajectory.

Guiding principles for SARChI

The following principles will inform the awarding of Research Chairs to universities:

  • SARChI is a strategic instrument aimed at strengthening research and innovation capacity in public universities, enhancing the training of a new generation of researchers and the further development of established researchers in all knowledge areas while responding to national priorities and strategies;
  • SARChI is a programme for universities, and Research Chairs may be held by a university in partnership with a public research institution such as: another university, a science council, a national research facility or an academic health complex;
  • Universities bid for Research Chairs in an open and competitive process, hence Chairs are not pre-allocated to institutions;
  • Research Chairs must be in alignment with the university Programme and Qualification Mix approved by the Department of Higher Education and Training;
  • Research Chairs are expected to dedicate at least 95% of their time conducting research, supervising an average of 10 masters and doctoral students per annum and mentoring emerging researchers. The remainder of the time can be for administration or undergraduate teaching;
  • Research Chairs are tenable at two Tiers. Tier 1 is for established researchers that are recognised internationally as a leader in their field and/or have received substantial international recognition for their research contributions. Tier 2 is for established researchers, generally under the age of 40 (forty) years with a strong research, innovation and human capital development output trajectory, and the potential to achieve substantial international recognition for their research contributions in the next five to ten years; and
  • Candidates from abroad that are willing to spend at least 50% of their time within South Africa are eligible for consideration, at the Tier 1 level, with the intention of attracting candidates, including African scholars and South Africans in the diaspora, that have distinguished themselves in their research fields. However, international candidates at Tier 2 level are required to reside full-time in South Africa for the duration of the Research Chair award.

Duration and Funding levels of Chairs

Research Chairs will be tenable for five years, renewable for two further five year periods, giving a total life span of 15 years. Eligibility for renewal will be entirely performance linked.

The South African Research Chairs Initiative proposes to make an award of up to R2.5 million per annum per Research Chair in Tier 1 and up to R1.5 million per annum per Research Chair in Tier 2. This award will need to cover salaries, postdoctoral fellowships and postgraduate student bursaries, research operating costs and equipment for the well founded laboratory relevant to the Chair.

A Research Chair would not be eligible for additional National Research Foundation (NRF) parliamentary vote core grant funding, except in respect of large equipment. Large equipment is expected to be addressed through the National Research Equipment and Infrastructure strategy. Research Chairs are also encouraged to extend their funding through innovation, government, industrial, business, donor and community funding.