Funding and Collaboration

Koketso Mogwera at the Strauss Laboratory, Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Photo credit Blake Blacomb. ©Diamond Light Source

Substantial support is required to enable newly emerging researchers to attract research funding to continue to work independently in their field. Funding is also critical to unite the Structural Biology community in Africa, and to ensure the maintenance of vital research infrastructure.  

To this end, a £150,000 UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) grant was awarded in October 2022 by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) for START: Health & Bio Sciences.

The new funding is the result of the significant achievements of the original START project, which was supported by a grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund for Synchrotron Techniques for African Research and Technology (START) from 2018 to 20211.  

The goal of the new grant is to provide follow-on funding to restore, consolidate and expand the progress in Health and Bio Sciences through Structural Biology that was made in South Africa, during and after the original START project.  

“Part of the success of the original START project was based on the availability of a central resource located at the University of Cape Town supporting the Structural Biology workflow. This gave ready and free support to researchers across the community, enabling them to fill in the gaps in their own expertise and source support and attract research funding locally. The new START: Health & Bio Sciences grant helps us to maintain and expand this resource. The follow-on funding also provides ‘breathing space’ to plan and develop sustainable programmes in Structural Biology.”

Professor Trevor Sewell, University of Cape Town, South Africa 
From L-R: Priscilla Masamba, Jeremy D Woodward, Melissa Marx, Andani Mulelu, Philip Venter, Lizelle Lubbe, and Professor Trevor Sewell in the Electron Microscopy Unit at the University of Cape Town’s Aaron Klug Centre for Imaging and Analysis, South Africa. Photo credit Rebekka Stredwick. © Diamond Light Source

The START: Health & Bio Sciences grant runs from 1st October 2022 to the 31st of March 2023 and involves a new collaboration agreement between the UK’s national synchrotron – Diamond Light Source Ltd (Diamond), the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University in South Africa. 

“It has been rewarding to see how the relatively modest investment of time and money can have such a major impact on the sustainability of research expertise, on the development of careers in Africa, on access to large scale facilities around the world, including improving our own systems at Diamond (such as remote access), and to the nurturing of collaborations and networks in South Africa.”

Dr Gwyndaf Evans, START Life Sciences Principal Investigator and Principal Beamline Scientist (VMXm) and Research Fellow at Diamond Light Source, UK

1 Chris Nicklin, Rebekka Stredwick & Trevor Sewell (2022) Synchrotron Techniques for African Research and Technology: A Step-Change in Structural Biology and Energy Materials, Synchrotron Radiation News, 35:1, 14-19, DOI: 10.1080/08940886.2022.2043684