The Government of Uganda recognises the centrality of science, technology and innovation in the national development process and is creating an enabling policy environment to harness social and economic growth dividends arising from STI activities.
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- Outline of Research and Innovation System
- S&T Policy
- Key R&D Figures
- Key Challenges
- Download Supporting Documents
STI was accorded sector status in the National Development Plan (2009/2010-2014/2015) and the Vision 2040 developed by the National Planning Authority (NPA, 2009). Subsequently, a National STI Policy (2009) was adopted and a National STI Plan (2012/2013-2017/2018) was formulated to facilitate policy implementation. The plan prioritises research and development activities as critical determinants of Uganda’s technological and socioeconomic progress. It seeks to increase Uganda’s Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) as ratio of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the current 0.5% of GDP to the African Union (AU) recommended 1% of GDP in the next five years (Science, Technology and Innovation Statistical Abstract 2012). Increases are also expected in the number, qualifications and productivity of research personnel.
Uganda’s research system has undergone several reforms as part of the structural adjustment and economic recovery processes that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Prior to that period, the research system was mainly comprised of government line ministries. Most of the ministries had Research Secretariats or Departments with fulltime research personnel. Research was coordinated then by the National Research Council (NRC), established in 1970 by a Cabinet decision. The NRC had responsibility for research oversight and advising on national research policy and was also a research funding arm of the government.
The NRC was replaced in 1990 by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST), which operates under the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MFPED). The UNCST was placed in the MFPED because of the crosscutting nature of STI and its role as an integral part of socio-economic and development planning.
Research institutions in Uganda may be categorised into:
- institutions mandated to formulate and implement research policy and national level coordination;
- regulatory institutions including those for standards and intellectual property management,
- research institutions which carry out research;
- training institutions which produce the human resources for research, as well as carrying out research and
- research support institutions which plan and manage research activities as well as the financing and dissemination of research results.
Research is largely carried out by the public research institutes and universities. There are a few private enterprises and international research organisations which also undertake research. The majority of the research institutions focus on basic research, and also carry out research to improve organizational, program or project performance. Fewer institutions engage in applied research and commercial product development.
In Uganda, like in many other countries, research is a component of all graduate training programs. Makerere University, until about 10 years ago was the sole local provider of graduate training in Uganda. However, over 21 other universities have since been established, which offer graduate training especially at Master’s Degree level (UNCST, 2010).
Research institutions in Uganda tend to collaborate rather informally. These collaborations are usually on individual basis and do not involve the institutions as entities. Formal collaborations among local research institutions are rare. In a few cases, formal research agreements exist where foreign, international or donor institutions are involved. However, in most cases, the local institutions have limited capacity to engage in a fair negotiation of terms for research cooperation because of an absence of enabling institutional policies (UNCST, 2013b).
The absence of supportive policies weakens collaborations and also limits participation of the private sector in product development in a partnership with universities or research institutes. This is an area for improvement for Uganda and crucial for developing Uganda’s capacity to engage in cutting-edge research and development activities.
Uganda’s research and development policy is defined under policy statement 9 in the National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (2009) which states:
“Support basic, applied and development research for enriching the STI knowledge base and product development for enhancing indigenous knowledge and adaptation of imported technology”
The strategic actions for implementation of the research policy statement include:
- Promotion and enhancement of basic, applied and development research including research on culture, norms and values relating to STI development.
- Provision of support to local institutions for enhancing capacity to undertake research on strategic STI issues.
- Establishment of national research priorities and sourcing funding for competitive research grants for both public and private institutions.
- Provision of adequate public funds for national research programs and financial incentives for researchers.
- Strengthening the existing and establishment of new R&D institutions in strategic areas of STI for accelerated national development.
- Strengthening and supporting training and enhancement of scientific research skills for undertaking reverse technology and indigenous technology development.
- Supporting high quality scientific research that leads to commercialization and development of products from research results.
- Strengthening collaboration with regional and international research institutions
Research in Uganda is liberalised, although it is still largely undertaken by public sector institutions. To ensure high quality and integrity of research, sector institutions have their own established mechanisms of developing research proposals, conducting scientific peer review and implementing research projects. In the academic circles, departmental and faculty research committees vet student’s research proposals, in addition to higher degrees. Quality assurance for higher education research is guided by the minimum standards and regulations for higher degrees programs set by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE). Quality assurance in other sectors is undertaken by the relevant research institutions or regulatory agencies. These include:
- National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO)
- Uganda National Health Research Organisation (UNHRO)
- Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI)
- National Environment Management Authority (NEMA)
- Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA)
- National Forestry Authority (NFA).
The UNCST coordinates the research activities of all sectoral research institutions by virtue of its broad and overarching mandate that covers all aspects of science and technology. The functions of the UNCST could be summarized as follows: 1) to coordinate the formulation of explicit national science and technology policies; 2) to develop strategies and programs for advancing science, technology and innovation, and 3) to facilitate the conduct of research and development.
Section 3d of the UNCST Act 1990 (Cap 209), specifically designates the UNCST as the “clearing house for information on research and experimental development taking place in scientific institutions, centers and other enterprises and on the potential application of their results”. By this, all persons and institutions carrying out research in Uganda are expected to register their research projects with the UNCST. As part of the registration process, UNCST evaluates every proposal submitted for their scientific soundness, integrity and for ethical appropriateness.
The performance record notwithstanding, Uganda’s research system is faced with three key challenges:
- Effective coordination and linkages among actors within and outside the system;
- Ensuring uptake and utilization of research results in public policy and business decision-making or industrial application;
- Limited funding for research from domestic sources.
The national system is still dominated by a large unfunded public sector with minimal participation of the relatively well funded business and private-non-for profit sectors (UNCST, 2011).
- UNCST (2011), Policy Options for Sustainable Funding of Uganda’s Science, Technology and Innovation System. UNCST Division for Science Policy and Coordination. Kampala.
- UNCST (2012), Science, Technology and Innovation Statistical Abstract. UNCST Division for Science Policy and Coordination. Kampala.
- UNCST (2013a), National Innovation Survey 2012 Report. UNCST Division for Science Policy and Coordination. Kampala.
- UNCST (2013b), National Research and Development Survey 2012 Report. UNCST Division for Science Policy and Coordination. Kampala.