The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced new funding to create research and innovation centres in Liberia and Guatemala. Subject to availability of funds, USAID plans to provide $30 million over the next five years for this initiative.
In Liberia, the center will use research and build training capacity to address health system challenges. In Guatemala, a series of centers will focus on economic growth innovations, entrepreneurship, training, and capacity building to increase livelihoods and address the root causes of migration. These two new awards add to the growing Higher Education Solutions Network portfolio at USAID focused on strengthening research systems in USAID partner countries.
As part of the Bringing Research to Impact for Development, Global Engagement, and Utilization (BRIDGE-U) program, Yale University, the University of Liberia College of Health Sciences, and Vanderbilt University will create the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Innovation (CTLI) in Liberia. This $15 million project establishes a public-private-academic hub for research utilization in the Liberian health sector.
Devastated by civil war, the Ebola epidemic, and now COVID-19, Liberia’s health system has dealt with severe resource constraints, shortages in healthcare workers, and other systemic challenges including gaps in evidence-based medical training and practices. Through partnerships with public and private sector stakeholders, CTLI will advance evidence-based training for the health workforce, patient care, and health policy. It will also build local research capacity and advance the understanding for how and when research can be effectively translated into programs, policies, and practice in the health sector.
As part of the Building Research and Innovation for Development, Generating Evidence, and Training (BRIDGE-Train) program, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala (UVG), and the Guatemalan AGEXPORT association will expand the network of innovation and technology centers and launch the Achieving Sustainable Partnerships for Innovation, Research, and Entrepreneurship (ASPIRE) project. This $15 million project will establish new innovation centers at two rural UVG satellite campuses. The Sololá campus in the Western Highlands serves Guatemala’s indigenous community, which also faces acute poverty and migration pressures. Working together with the private sector, through AGEXPORT, ASPIRE will build capacity and capability to strengthen livelihoods, increase local innovation, and youth entrepreneurship and employment, and through these efforts address one of the root causes of migration. Further, the award will work to connect research and policy to shape the enabling environment for such activities and act as a model for this approach throughout the region.
USAID has a long history of working with higher education institutions and these new projects continue that tradition by investing in partnerships between higher education institutions in the U.S. and in USAID partner countries. USAID helps strengthen local scientific and research capacity and establish higher education institutions in USAID partner countries as local sources of knowledge and innovation. Through partnerships with private and public sector partners, these programs improve the use of research in decision-making, empowering local actors to address local development challenges using evidence-based solutions.
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