Competitive grants in the new millennium : a global workshop for designers and practitioners

The workshop provided a forum for the exchange of experiences in the design and implementation of competitive grant programs for research and extension (CGPs). This report provides a brief outline of concerns and lessons learned from common experiences in competitive programs from country, regional, and donor perspectives. It provides country case studies, and the various papers presented by participants on a range of issues that influence, both policy formulation, and the performance of competitive programs. These include the evolutionary status of the research and development (R & D) system, size and economic status of the country, source of funds, commitment of the government, and differences in objectives. Considerations when introducing a competitive program suggest that competitive programs are a funding mechanism with both advantages and disadvantages: they are not appropriate in all situations, and should be linked with other funding sources for research, extension and training to promote a complementary system of R & D funding. On program policy and administration, suggestions include the need for strong and independent governance; qualitative and quantitative measures; rigorous, independent, and transparent review process; monitoring and evaluation guidelines with clear objectives and indicators for the program. Recommendations for establishing procedures for a positive impact on institutional reform, include inter alia, the promotion of co-operation through the competitive process on a partnership basis, and, the development of mechanisms to internalize experiences from competitive funding to upgrade quality of block (or core) funding (e.g., peer review). A recurring theme was the issue of balancing of public and private objectives. This means protecting proprietary knowledge and technologies to attract the participation of the private sector, while ensuring that public funds are used for social objectives. Likewise, equity concerns must be weighed against the needs of a competitive market economy.