The National Research Foundation (NRF) was established through the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998), following a system-wide review conducted for the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST). The new entity incorporated the functions of the research funding agencies that were previously servicing various sections of the research community, namely the former Centre for Science Development (CSD) of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the former Foundation for Research Development (FRD) that included several National Research Facilities.

As an independent government agency, the NRF promotes and supports research in all fields of knowledge. It also conducts research and provides access to National Research Facilities. The NRF provides services to the research community especially at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and Science Councils with a view to promote high-level human capital development. The NRF aims to uphold excellence in all its investments in knowledge, people and infrastructure.

Mandate of the NRF

The NRF receives its mandate from the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998). According to Section 3 of the Act, the object of the NRF is to: promote and support research through funding, human resource development and the provision of the necessary facilities in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge, and thereby to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of all the people of the Republic.

NRF Vision 2015

The NRF has a vision (Vision 2015) of ensuring research excellence within a transformed research workforce that espouses a sustainable environment not only for the benefit of the present generation but also for future generations of South Africans. In short, the NRF vision is:

  • World-class research
  • Transformed society
  • Sustainable environment

NRF mission statement (page 14 of the Vision 2015 document)

 To contribute to the knowledge economy in South Africa by attaining at least 1% of global research and development (R&D) output by 2015.

Corporate values (page 15 of the Vision 2015 document)

The NRF values are:

  • Passion for excellence
  • World-class service
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • People-centered 
  • Accountability

Strategic goals (page 16 of the Vision 2015 document)

The NRF adopted the following broad strategic goals:

  • Promote internationally competitive research as basis for a knowledge economy;
  • Grow a representative science and technology workforce in South Africa;
  • Provide cutting-edge research, technology and innovation platforms;
  • Operate world-class evaluation and grant-making systems; and
  • Contribute to a vibrant national innovation system.

Core competencies of the NRF (page 15 of the Vision 2015 document)

The core competencies of the NRF are embedded in:  

  • Leading-edge grant management systems;
  • World-class research evaluation and benchmarking practices;
  • Science and technology management experience;
  • State-of-the-art research platforms;
  • Specialised research capacity at the National Research Facilities;
  • Strategic information accumulation and dissemination capability;
  • Capacity to catalyse local and international science cooperation, networks and partnerships; and Science advancement expertise and platforms.