NAIRS announces N5 million as grants for AI researchers and innovators 

Nigeria Artificial Intelligence Research Scheme (NAIRS) has announced grants for researchers and startups to accelerate AI research and innovation. 

The grant award will include up to N5 million for 45 Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers or startups. 

The aim is to drive the AI transformation agenda, through those interested in research and innovations on Artificial Intelligence (AI) that spur job creation, and economic growth, improve government services, and have positive societal impacts across Nigeria. 

The rationale for the grant 

According to a report by the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly reshaping multiple industries and holds significant potential to drive job creation, economic growth, and societal development.

Nigeria, being the largest economy in Africa with a population of over 200 million and a youthful demographic (median age of 18.4 years, World Bank, 2022), is well-positioned to leverage AI to advance its economic prosperity.

The country boasts a growing pool of tech talent and a vibrant startup ecosystem, including six unicorns as of 2022 (CB Insights, 2022). 

To fully harness AI’s potential for driving applications, job opportunities, and policy leadership in Africa, the Ministry believes it is essential to prioritize substantial research and strategic investments in AI.

This is why the Ministry believes research efforts will play a pivotal role in developing adaptable AI models tailored for key sectors such as agriculture, education, healthcare, and finance.

Furthermore, these investments will enable the optimization of innovations by bridging the gap between academic advancements and practical industry applications, while also facilitating insights into AI’s impacts through pilot studies and field experiments on deployed systems.

Ultimately, this research will guide evidence-based policies addressing ethical AI use, data governance, privacy, safety, automation, inclusion, and other emerging AI-related challenges. 

Here are examples of research themes expected for the applicants to focus on: 

  • Enhancing agricultural productivity through precision farming, predictive analytics, and robotics to support smallholder farmers. 
  • Advancing healthcare accessibility and quality, particularly in the fields of diagnostic tools, personalized treatments, and intelligent hospital systems. 
  • Improving education and workforce readiness with the aid of adaptive learning platforms, tailored recommendations, and intelligent career guidance. 
  • Promoting financial inclusion and expanding credit access through automated credit underwriting, AI chatbots for customer support, and fraud detection. 
  • Enabling transparent and efficient governance by employing AI for tasks such as automated document processing, analytics of surveillance data, and optimization of public resources. 
  • Streamlining energy management and realizing savings in areas like smart grids, predictive maintenance, and algorithmic efficiency enhancements. 
  • Supporting sustainable urban development and mobility through the implementation of intelligent transportation systems, optimized allocation of city resources, and data-driven urban planning. 

Expected Outcomes 

The expected outcomes of this grant scheme are to: 

  • Ensure that a minimum of 50% of research papers produced are published in well-regarded journals. 
  • Foster the advancement and utilization of AI research and innovation within critical sectors in Nigeria, including Agriculture, Education, Healthcare, Finance, and more. 
  • Encourage the proliferation of AI startups within Nigeria. 
  • Serve as the initial driving force for elevating Nigeria’s global standing in AI competitiveness.
Application process 

To apply for the grant, visit here, then: 

  • Fill and submit the research grant form. 
  • Upload a CV or resume that highlights your team’s experience and qualifications. 
  • Upload 2 letters of recommendation from experts in your field. 

Applicants are to submit their application before the deadline  on the 15th of November, 2023 

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