Call for papers: Harnessing Innovation for Transformative Change in the age of Covid-19: Theoretical & Policy Responses in Africa 


Covid-19 has put a spotlight on the scientific and research community in Africa and elsewhere. Decision-makers have been urged to seek all sorts of evidence to allow them to make rapid decisions related to the spread of the virus, and ways to mitigate its multiple social and economic impacts. It has become clear that government support for scientific research and development (R&D) is critical, especially when it comes to vaccines and medical treatments. However, other types of knowledge, beyond scientific, have also become essential: new products, new processes, new business models, new ways of doing things. In other words, innovation is needed more than ever, not only to overcome the ongoing crises but also to effectively respond to upcoming potential shocks.

The Covid-19 crisis has already spurred a number of rapid innovations, many of them technology-enabled. Virtual education, telemedicine and digitally-supported modalities of work have expanded all over the world. Also, non-technological innovations, often community-based, have emerged. These innovations have shown advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, they have allowed sustaining activities that would have not been possible otherwise; but, on the other hand, they have exposed the deep-rooted inequalities in our societies, related to gender, income, access to medical treatments and digital technologies, among others.

The realm of innovation policy – also referred to as science, technology and innovation (STI) policy – has been traditionally dominated by a focus on national competitiveness and economic growth. However, current production and consumption systems continue to create instabilities in our natural environment and social structures. As African economies and societies are severely put under test, we are now urged to re-imagine the future of Africa in a post-Covid-19 age. Moreover, Covid-19 has brought to the fore the importance of resilience, sustainability and inclusion, to adequately confront challenges in highly uncertain environments. With a climate crisis looming, these are likely to be the norm in the future.

In this call for papers, we are looking for contributions from scholars and practitioners that can provide innovative thinking on ways in which innovation can be harnessed to provide short-term and long-term transformative solutions for Africa in a post-Covid-19 world. We welcome high-quality submissions by scholars from all over the world who offer either a conceptual/theoretical approach, or a practical one that includes providing concrete policy recommendations supported either by data analysis and/or historical perspectives.


The DST/NRF/Newton Fund Trilateral Research Chair in Transformative Innovation, the 4th Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development, is funded by the South African National Research Foundation and the British Council. The programme is a research collaboration between the University of Johannesburg, the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Nairobi and the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex in the UK.

We will fund a maximum of 10 papers between 10,000-15,000 words, at ZAR70,000 each (approximately 4,000 US Dollars). The papers will be published as Working Papers in 2020 while we approach suitable book publishers. A book publication is envisaged before the end of 2021.

Application process: Please submit an extended abstract of approximately 1,000 words, outlining the focus of your paper. In your proposal, please include a contextual motivation for the work and a description of the method and/or data that will be used.

Proposals should be emailed to Ms Thembela Cebekulu (administrator, DST/NRF/Newton Fund Trilateral Research Chair in Transformative Innovation, the 4th Industrial Revolution and Sustainable Development) at thembelac@uj.ac.za.

Deadline: End of the day 11th of September 2020, 23:59 CET. Proposals submitted after this deadline will not be considered. A panel set up by the Trilateral Chair will evaluate the proposals and successful applicants will be notified on the 25th of September 2020.

Timeline: Deadline for proposals11th September 2020
Notification of successful proposals25th September 2020
Submission of draft papers13th November 2020
Payment of first tranche (R35,000)20th November 2020
Online workshop23rd November 2020 (TBC)
Submission of revised papers22nd December 2020