Application Guidelines for Zimbabwe and Malawi Call for Collaborative Research Proposals in Agriculture Biotechnology

Call Opening Date: 26th June, 2023

Call Closing Date: 25th July, 2023

1.0       BACKGROUND

The Research Council of Zimbabwe (RCZ) and the National Commission for Science and Technology (NCST) of the Republic of Malawi are participating in the Science Granting Councils Initiative (SGCI) Phase II-plus. Participation in the SGCI Phase II-plus builds on the previous SGCI Phase II objective of seeking to strengthen the capacities of Science Granting Councils (SGCs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) concerned with the support of research and evidence-based policies that will contribute to socio-economic development. SGCI Phase II-plus will continue to focus on the management of research and innovation projects.

During this phase, RCZ and NCST are jointly administering a Grant aimed at managing collaborative research calls in emerging technologies and development in Zimbabwe and Malawi. The Grant will support and manage research in Agricultural Biotechnology conducted in both Zimbabwe and Malawi under the auspices of the SGCI. The Initiative is jointly funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO), Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), South Africa’s National Research Foundation (NRF), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), NORAD and German Research Foundation.


The transition to knowledge-based economies has put the role of knowledge at the pinnacle of trade, investments, and manufacturing. In that regard, the contribution of the knowledge generating organizations, their linkages with the private sector, the potential for knowledge exchange and technology transfer has become central to socio-economic development in Africa.

In order to promote the co-creation and exchange of knowledge to boost agricultural productivity in the two countries, the RCZ and NCST have instituted a Collaborative Research Grant in Agricultural Biotechnology. The grant, has been established through a co-fund between the SGCs, RCZ and NCST with the aim of supporting Agricultural Biotechnology research projects identified by the National Research Priority Areas in both countries. 


Researchers in the area of Agriculture Biotechnology in both countries will collaborate to prepare joint research proposals focusing on either Plant or Animal Biotechnology. Project proposals submitted under this call may include, but are not limited to, the following research areas:

  • Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience;
  • Yield production improvements (against Cotton Mealybug, Fall Army Worm and Large Grain Borer);
  • Breeding and Genetics –Multi-disciplinary in nature (Fish Breeding, Artificial Insemination and Molecular Breeding included);
  • Nutrition Research – (Soil Health, Fodder/ Pasture Research included); and
  • Microbial Research.


It is expected that interventions of the projects will improve co-creation and exchange of knowledge to boost agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Projects should also aim within their proposed duration to enhance the capacity of researchers in areas including biotechnology research analysis skills.


The budget limit for project activities for the research team in Zimbabwe will be the local equivalent of USD 30,000.00 and the budget limit for project activities in Malawi will be MK32,797,710. Budget modalities will include two separate budgets, one for each team representative of their respective countries. Collaborative research projects will be implemented for a period not exceeding twenty-two months (22 months) from 1st September 2023 to 30th June, 2025. Permissible budget items include the following:

  • Material costs, if they are directly linked to the research project, in particular material of enduring value, the cost of expendable items, field expenses, travel expenses or third party charges.
  • Direct costs incurred through the use of research infrastructure linked to the research.
  • Costs of organizing conferences and workshops in connection with the funded research.
  • Costs of national and international cooperation and networking activities directly associated with the funded research.

Note:   Salaries of applicants are not eligible costs.


  1. Each proposal must have one principal investigator as a main applicant based in Zimbabwe and one Principal Investigator as a main applicant based in Malawi. The Principal Investigators will bear the overall responsibility for the project, including its technical and administrative co-ordination as well as the timely delivery of scientific and financial reports.
  2. Applications are open to bona fide researchers from public research and higher learning institutions in both Zimbabwe and Malawi. Researchers from the Private Sector and Non-profit Organizations registered in Zimbabwe and Malawi are eligible to apply but in collaboration with researchers in public research or higher learning institutions in both Zimbabwe and Malawi.
  3. Support letters from the Zimbabwe and Malawi host institutions of the Principal Investigators are a prerequisite. Proposals without institutional approval through support letters will not be considered.
  4. The Grant will fund only applied research projects in the listed thematic areas. Research proposals must demonstrate the application of scientific principles or basic scientific discoveries to solve real life challenges. Basic or purely theoretical research will not be considered.
  5. Principal Investigators from Higher Education and Learning (HELs) and Agriculture Research Institutions in Malawi and Zimbabwe are eligible to participate in the call. Private sector and other entities can participate as collaborators. Zimbabwean and Malawi Principal Investigators at the point of application must fulfil the following requirements:
    a) Hold a primary appointment in a local publicly funded institution (Minimum of 12 months’ employment with a local institution in Zimbabwe or Malawi);
    b) Have done previous research in agricultural biotechnology and have some results published;
    c) Be a Principal Investigator with a track record of leadership ability in co-ordinating research programmes;
    d) Providing mentorship to research teams, as well as having productive research outcomes; and
    e) Should ensure project team composition is inclusive of women and young career researchers.


These guidelines are provided to researchers to develop proposals for possible funding in agriculture biotechnology within the above-mentioned thematic areas. Failure to adhere to these guidelines would result in the disqualification of the proposal. Submission of a research proposal does not guarantee funding.

A multi-disciplinary inter-institutional group of scientists from the two countries and from the region with skills and experience in agriculture biotechnology will be appointed as an independent panel of reviewers. These reviewers may also be called upon to contribute to the assessment of the progress and performance of funded projects.

Research projects that show potential for high impact at grass root within the project time line at a reasonable cost will be given high priority. Projects that emphasise technology identification and generation, packaging and dissemination for immediate impact on investment and productivity are encouraged. The applicants are requested to use Times New Roman font, size 12, 1.5-line spacing using the Research Proposal Template (Annexure 1).


a) Cross-cutting considerations
The proposal should demonstrate how sex, gender equality and inclusivity, public-private partnerships, risk management and intellectual property issues will be addressed in the project. Submissions of research projects led by women Principal Investigators are strongly encouraged.

b) Results and Dissemination
Applicants should clearly define the major outputs expected from the research project and describe how the research findings will be disseminated or used. Who are the target audience/ beneficiaries? How will the findings be used to influence policy and practice? What media engagements plans are envisaged? Indicate how open access will be fostered. Relate the specific dissemination method/approach to the target audience and briefly explain the rationale for the choice of the approach.
c) Team composition from applicant organizations
All individuals who make a significant contribution to the intellectual direction of the research, and who may have some responsibility for financial aspects of the project should be listed. Team members from applicant organisations should be included. It is important to include the field of expertise of each individual, as well as the percentage of their professional time committed to the project. Do not include CVs of the entire research team, but include a one or two paged CV for the Principal Investigators. Letters of support from the institutions of the PI should be included.

d) Budget
This should include an explanation and justification for each line item in the detailed budget spreadsheet. The maximum budget is as stated in section 5.0 above. Presentation of detailed budgets is a must. Any personnel costs should include a clarification of the roles and responsibilities of key researchers and percentage of time devoted to the project. The research grant will not cover salaries for the project team members. All rates to be used for the budgeting purpose are the ones acceptable by the respective institutions of the Principal Investigators hosting the projects. Some of the project downstream budgetary items could include the following:
• Research specific costs including cost of equipment;
• Costs associated with human resources;
• Capacity building e.g. postgraduate;
• International and local travel;
• Monitoring and evaluation; and
• Dissemination of research results.

e) Project Governance
Briefly explain how the project will be governed. What is the composition of the research team, their qualifications and specific roles in the proposed project? Describe how any partnership is planned with other universities/ research institutes? How will the private sector or beneficiaries be involved in the design/management/execution of the project? What is the role of the university’s/institute’s management (if any) and how might this governance structure influence the success of the programme?
f) Proposed Project Timeline
Provide a chart of key activities, timelines and key milestones.
g) Monitoring and Evaluation
RCZ and NCST will be responsible for monitoring and evaluation. Successful applicants will be provided with Reporting Templates to aide monitoring and evaluation.
h) Ethical clearance
Where the project involves human participants and animal subjects, the Principal Investigator in the respective country shall obtain ethical clearance from an appropriate RCZ and NCST designated research ethics committee before any grant disbursement and implementation of the project. RCZ and NCST will also ensure that the ethically cleared research projects have been inspected for ethical compliance in the field besides the ordinary monitoring and evaluation.


The mode of application and submission of the full application package (i.e with all the required attachments) shall primarily be through the web-based online grants management system of both RCZ at and NCST at . Application packages submitted via email will also be accepted in exceptional circumstances, provided that such circumstances have been communicated to and approved by an officer responsible for handling enquiries under this grant scheme.

The deadline for submission is 25thJuly, 2023 at 16:30 Central Africa Time. Application package shall include full proposal; principal investigator’s covering letter; letter of support from an institution of the principal investigator. Applications received after the deadline will not be included in the evaluation. When the full application package is duly completed save the document as ‘last name of Principal Investigator-RCZ-NCST Call for Proposals 2023”. All attachments must be in PDF.
a) The application package must be sent via email to both and with a copy to at NCST and a copy to at RCZ with the subject heading: “Full Proposal in Agricultural Biotechnology Research(2023)” clearly specified.
b) All proposals must be submitted in the prescribed template and will be reviewed based on their quality and merit. A full proposal template is downloadable on and on .
c) Proposals should not exceed fifteen (15) pages, using 1.5 spacing and font size 12 Times New Roman (Refer to the proposal template for other details).
d) All proposals will be received and processed in strict confidentiality and with complete acknowledgment of Intellectual Property Rights of the applicants.
e) Proposals will be screened for completeness by both RCZ and NCST before a rigorous review by an independent panel of reviewers.
f) Evaluation, selection, approval and communication to successful applicants by respective Boards of RCZ and NCST will be by 20th August 2023.
g) RCZ and NCST’s decisions will be final.


Any enquiries from Zimbabwe researchers should be sent to Mr Forbes Z. Chinyemba at while enquiries from Malawi researchers should be directed to Mr Lyson Kampira at .


The full proposal in any of the priority areas should be prepared in the following format and address elements therein.

    This section provides a succinct high-level summary of the proposed project. The summary should be in plain English, avoiding the use of jargon and acronyms. Please note that this summary will be published in the SGCI Virtual Hub and partner institutions websites. The summary should be short but detailed enough to stand alone. It must not be more than one page long.
    Describe the problem that is to be investigated and the questions that will guide the research process. Provide a brief overview of the body of knowledge related to the problem and indicate the knowledge gaps that the proposed research will fill. To show the importance of the problem, this section should discuss: how the research relates to the country’s development priorities; the scientific importance of the problem; the urgency and magnitude of the problem and how the research results will contribute to its solution; the special importance of the project for the private sector; and the need to build up research capacity in the proposed area of research.
    The overall goal should state the development goal being pursued by the research. The specific objectives should indicate the specific types of knowledge (or other outputs) to be produced/realized, the audiences to be reached, the forms of capacity to be reinforced, and the partnerships to be established. These are the objectives against which the success of the project will be judged.
    Explain how each specific objective will be achieved in sufficient detail to enable an independent scientific assessment of the proposal. This section should show how the research questions will be answered in the most rigorous way possible. You must be clear about the activities envisaged to achieve each objective. The methodology (which should be justified) should discuss the following details as appropriate:

• Conceptual and theoretical framework. Define the frame of reference that will guide the research (for more on this see section on innovation systems).

• User participation. Indicate whether (and if so, how) the ultimate users of the research findings (in this case, the private sector) were involved in the design of the project and how they will participate in the execution of the project or implementation of the results.

• Data collection. Indicate the approaches and methods that will be used to collect data as well as how the research instruments will be developed. If the research includes studies on human populations, indicate how ethical questions relating to confidentiality will be achieved (see below). Where applicable, details must be provided with regard to the collection and handling of biological samples, and all laboratory procedures and protocols must be stipulated.
• Data analysis. Describe the methods of data analysis and modeling to be used, if any. This should include any statistical processes/ softwares (if necessary) as well as how the data will be secured, accessed, shared, stored and archived.

    Define the major outputs (e.g., publications, policy briefs, books, technologies, protocols, guidelines, etc.) expected from the research (please be specific.). Based on these outputs, define the outcomes expected. Outcomes are defined as changes in actions, behaviours, and relationships of the users and target audiences. What is likely to change as a result of research findings, to whom, when and where? Describe whether the project findings are likely to influence policy and at what levels (national, regional?) How will the project engage with policy and decision actors at these levels?
    Describe how the research findings will be disseminated or used. Who are the target audience/ beneficiaries? How will the findings be used to influence policy and practice? What media engagements plans are envisaged? Is open access (OA) part of your university’s/institute’s policy? Relate the specific dissemination method/approach to the target audience and briefly explain the rationale for the choice of the approach.
    Briefly explain how the project will be governed. Describe whether the project plans to incorporate advisors to provide overall oversight. What is the composition of the research team, their qualifications and specific roles in the proposed project? Is any partnership planned with other universities/ research institutes in your country (if the focus is national); or in other countries (if the focus is regional)? How will the private sector and other beneficiaries be involved in the design/ management/ execution of the project? What is the role of the university’s/institute’s management (if any) and how might this governance structure influence the success of the programme?
    Describe the suitability of your institution in coordinating this project by highlighting the specific factors that make it uniquely qualified. Provide an overview of the technical infrastructure, human capacity, and other resource endowments that demonstrate the existing capacity to undertake the proposed research. Explain the institution’s previous/ current activities, outreach and impact in the proposed area. Describe any existing or anticipated links with the private sector and other actors in the country/national system. Briefly demonstrate how this project will fit into the overall design of the university’s/institute’s overall research strategy
    Describe how the project plans to contribute towards both individual and organizational capacity building. How might post-graduate students (MSc. and PhD) be involved in the project? What other training activities are envisaged under the project? Are their plans to enhance the capacity of project partners (and if so, in what areas)?
    Describe the monitoring and evaluation strategy approach that the research team will use for monitoring and evaluation of the research project
    Describe how ethical approval will be obtained, if applicable. All projects that include human subjects must ensure that their privacy, dignity, and integrity are protected. Projects that will collect corporate or personal information must detail how informed consent will be obtained and confidentiality maintained.
    Carefully describe the links of the proposed project to ongoing projects within the institution (regardless of whether these projects are undertaken by the PI). If the project builds on other funded projects then provide accurate and verifiable information about the funding sources and whether the proposed activities are new. Explain how the project will be sustained beyond the project support. Are any donor partnerships anticipated, and if so, which ones? Provide details of any ongoing discussions with other funders, if applicable.

Identify the key risks that may arise during the implementation of the proposed research and how each will be addressed. For each potential risk, outline the key assumptions and a mitigation plan.


Provide a chart of key activities and timelines as below

Project ActivitiesYear 1Year 2


Include key literature/references that have been cited in the proposal