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Research Funding

Funding  Overview

Funding Sources

The Water Research Act makes provision for a Water Research Fund, which derives its income mainly from levies on water made available for various uses. Diversification of income sources is gaining momentum, with the main other source being income derived from research fund management on behalf of specific sponsors and donors.

Funding Streams

The WRC's research portfolio has funds allocated to research in the following categories:

  • Directed Call

  • Open Call

  • Consultancies (Directed  Call or Open Call )

The WRC’s investment in research and development (R&D) is mainly through research projects and programmes in the solicited and non-solicited categories. Research proposals are invited on an annual basis in these two categories only, in accordance with the WRC’s annual funding cycle.

The annual ratio of directed   to open call  research funds may differ between KSAs and also within each KSA according to the changing strategic needs of the KSA and the WRC’s overall objectives.

Consultancy research agreements are usually initiated from within the WRC. There is no formal call for proposals in this category.

Directed Call

The purpose of soliciting research is to proactively and strategically direct research and development into areas of greatest need or greatest potential impact. Directed research mainly takes the form of relatively large projects or programmes which address medium to long-term needs. In the case of such large projects or programmes, which may extend over a period of several years, there is a preference for the research to be undertaken by consortia rather than individual organisations. Directed research projects are mostly non-targeted, i.e. any organisation or consortium of organisations, which considers itself qualified, has an equal opportunity to put in a bid to undertake the research. It is conceivable, however, that some solicited research projects may, in exceptional circumstances, be targeted, i.e. assigned to specific research providers who may have exclusive skills to do the necessary research.

Calls for proposals for directed research are issued annually for a given annual funding cycle and are accompanied by Terms of Reference (ToRs) to which proposers of research are required to adhere closely. The ToRs align the research with the strategic objectives of a particular Key Strategic Area (KSA) and are intended to be clear and specific.

Open Call

Open call research proposals provide the opportunity of accommodating, within the KSA thrust or preferred programme areas, promising and relevant research based on innovative thinking and with the potential to yield applicable and beneficial results. Proposed projects in this category are typically smaller than those in the category for directed research; they extend over a period of one to three years and may be undertaken by a single organisation or by a number of collaborating organisations.

Calls for proposals for open call research are issued annually for a given annual funding cycle. They are accompanied by clear guidelines for preparation of proposals. All proposals must adhere closely to the guidelines and should be submitted, via the Internet, after completing a prescribed electronic submission form.


Consultancies refer to short-term investigations (6-12 months maximum) which are crucial, urgent or exploit windows of opportunity and which have total budgets not exceeding R200 000. There is no annual call for proposals for consultancies - proposals should first be discussed with a research manager within the relevant KSA, who will carry out an initial evaluation. The proposal will then be further considered by a KSA team, and approved by the KSA Director

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