As a result of the very positive developments in the context of the Swiss South Africa Joint Research Programme, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the South African National Science Foundation (NRF) have signed a Lead Agency agreement in 2020.
The agreement is the first of its kind for the SNSF, partnering with a non-European country in the framework of such an agreement.
As of 2021 researchers in Switzerland and South Africa can submit joint funding applications, simplifying the application process considerably. The two funders will take turns during a two-year pilot phase: the SNSF will evaluate all submissions in 2021, the NRF in 2022. Researchers are free to choose their own research topic. At the National Research Foundation, the Lead Agency process is open for funding researchers/ scientists residing in South Africa and affiliated with a recognised South African public higher education or research institution such as a university, university of technology or science council. The Lead Agency process is part of the SNSF's project funding scheme. Hence researchers may only submit a Lead Agency application if there are no thematic overlap with applications being evaluated at the SNSF or with ongoing projects.
Lead Agency applications need to meet certain criteria. They must have a joint research question and research plan. In addition, the parts of the project conducted in each country are not independent projects and cannot be carried out separately.
The first call was launched in September 2020 with a submission deadline for 1 April 2021. Researchers are free to choose their own research topic.