Accountable medical research council engages Standing Committee on Health

Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has claimed its fifth consecutive unqualified (clean) audit.  The SAMRC’s management of state money and its support of Medical Research and Science as measured against indicators continue to reflect the significant impact this institution makes toward achieving a healthy life for South Africans. The SAMRC continues to introduce new strategic interventions to transform the organisation and develop medical research where it never existed before.   

“Our precedent is a trajectory of result.  Our focus has and will always be to invest in responsive medical research and innovation to change the lives of the people we serve”, says Professor Glenda Gray, President  & CEO of the SAMRC. 

Exceeding all performance targets set for the 2016/17 financial period, the organisation observed some key results:

  • 18% of the overall budget incurred is for administrative costs - a further 1% reduction from the previous financial period of 19%;
  • 147 research grants were awarded in comparison to 112 in the previous reporting period;
  • the number of bursaries/scholarships/fellowships provided for postgraduate studies at masters, doctoral and postdoctoral levels increased by more than twofold from the previous reporting period (66) when compared to the 2016/17 reporting period (156).   

Transforming the organisation at various levels has been a strategic imperative of the SAMRC over the past three financial periods and the following results were achieved:

  • Appointed four Deputy Directors in four intramural research units as part of a new programme to provide an opportunity for Black Scientists to develop Management and Leadership skills and facilitate their progression to senior leadership levels within the organisation.
  • By promoting the need for an NRF rating, the organisation more than doubled the number of NRF rated scientists in the organisation from 9 in 2014 to 24 in 2016 with 3 being A rated. 
  • Launched a Mid-Career Scientist Programme to fast-track mid-career scientists and transition them into independent researchers by funding one black male and two black female researchers.
  • Increased the number of global collaborations, public-private partnerships and agreements to improve the research and development footprint of the organisation through engagements with Senegal, Sudan, Rwanda, Canada, India and Sweden. 
  • Increasing the number of Black Africans at the Executive Management Level.

A most notable change has been the results achieved following the strategic interventions employed by the organisation to transform the funding streams.  In 2012, the Self-Initiated Research (SIR) Grants were skewed with most grants awarded to White candidates (73%), with African candidates only securing 11% of the grants.  Another systemic issue was that established researchers were competing with emerging researchers.  By separating the researchers according to the level of experience, and by taking cognisance of the historical under resourcing of selected universities, new SIR guidelines were applied when awarding the grants.  In 2016, results reflected that SIR grants were awarded to 37% White, 22% Indian, 31% African and 10% Coloured researchers. 

The SAMRC investment profile has increased significantly over the past 3-5 years due to the high quality of its research and research outputs as well as sound governance as evidenced by successive clean (unqualified) audits.

“SAMRC is a leader in ensuring that behind great medical research there is excellent research governance”, said Professor Mike Sathekge, Chairperson of the SAMRC Board.

Total revenue has increased over the last four years by 45% to approximately R1bn in 2016/17, an average growth of over 12% per annum which is significantly in excess of inflation. This is driven by a growth in our baseline grant from National Government as well as significant contributions from International funders. Revenue growth projections for the next four years are however relatively flat due mainly to the current constrained fiscal environment. This will be offset by the prudent use of SAMRC reserves to fund identified research opportunities as well as the generation of new partnerships with the private sector and international partners.

Release date: 
Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - 14:00
Dr Alfred Thutloa
Contact: Dr Alfred Thutloa

Head of Corporate Communications
Tel: + 27 21 938 0274