Cape Town | New annual strategic targets for the 2017/18 financial period have been set by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) - achieve a fifth consecutive clean audit; increase the annual audited number of published journal articles from 500 to 700; spend only 20% of the organizational budget on administrative support costs; increase the number of annual research grants awarded from 120 to 168; and congratulate an estimated 55 post-doctoral students on completing their studies in the financial period.
“When we measure our scientific productivity, we have an idea of our country’s economic wealth and human development”, said Professor Glenda Gray, President & CEO of the SAMRC. “The potential of science to progress the socio-economic context of a country is limitless, so we need to invest our funds in our core business”.
As a public entity that relies on baseline funding from the National Department of Health and income streams from funders, the SAMRC alluded to concerns about the current and future budget constraints. Having achieved four consecutive clean audits, the SAMRC’s focus over the medium term (2018/19 to 2019/20) will be to implement cost containment measures that will continue to confidently positon the public entity as a going concern whilst maintaining current research funding commitments. Funds for each strategic objective in the 2017/18 financial period have been allocated as follows: core research (ZAR 603 million); innovation and technology (ZAR 190 million); and capacity development (ZAR 58 million).
“We were successful in keeping the administration spend at 20% of the 2016/17 annual budget and in so doing we allocated more money to do science”, said Nick Buick, Chief Financial Officer of the SAMRC. “Our baseline for the 2017/18 financial period decreased by ZAR 37 million, but it is imperative that we maintain the momentum of delivering great medical science and innovation”, Buick assured the Committee.
In 2016/17 the SAMRC’s Grants, Innovation & Product Development (GIPD) unit awarded grants to more than 168 research projects in excess of ZAR 270 million in the areas of research for drug discovery, vaccines, novel diagnostic tools, medical devices and genetics.
The GIPD programs have grown exponentially, through a successful model of leveraged funding and has created a phenomenal number of opportunities for collaboration, capacity development and elevating the innovation agenda as part of the response solution for local and global challenges.
“Our country’s health problem statement is not exclusive. We need to think global, collaborate, invest in research and development and trust our pioneers to find evidence based solutions that will help us respond to the colliding epidemics and other health challenges in our country”, said Professor Richard Gordon, Executive Director for GIPD.
New strategies, introduced since the start of Gray’s tenure in 2014, delivered laudable results of redress. In 2012 funding for the largest section of grants was awarded as follows: 72% white, 11% indian, 11% African and 5% coloured. “We are transforming the way funds for research are being distributed by simply being committed to a transformed organisation. In 2015 our figures revealed that funding for our largest section of grants, were awarded as follows: African 27%, coloured 27%, indian 12% and white 34%”, said Gray.
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