Kenya’s interest in the promotion of ST&I has been on for through various initiatives. During the first Medium Term Plan (MTP I), one of the focus areas was to create deliberate efforts to address intensification of innovation in priority sectors. To address this, in 2008/2009 financial year the Government consolidated the research funds that were under, the then Commission of Higher Education (CHE) into a research endowment grants budget line which was administered by the then National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) on behalf of the then Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The initial allocation of this grant amounted to KES 250,000,000M which increased overtime to the tune of KES 497,000,000M by 2015/2016 fiscal year.

The purpose of the research endowment fund was to support advancement of scientific research, inventions and Innovations and build capacity in ST&I sector for national development. The Funds targets funding of ST&I sector in priority areas in relation to the development agenda of the Government as provided in Vision 2030 among others policies documents. The technological and social innovations were promoted through investing in novel technology development from proof-of-concept to a pre-production prototype level. The Fund provided funding to Scientific and policy oriented research to address societal challenges in line with priority areas in relation to the Government development targets. Through this fund, a total of 1,816 research and innovations projects in priority areas covering over 100 institutions (both public and private) throughout the Country.

In line with global trends and consistent with the African Union (AU) position, around 2005/2006 the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology initiated discussions to formulate ST&I Policy and Strategy to elevate Science and Technology as part of the foundation for national transformation embodied in the country’s development blue print Kenya Vision 2030. One of specific strategic issue in the ST&I policy was aimed at securing adequate and sustainable funding for various Science, Technology and Innovation components that would facilitate cost effective implementation of the policy. Such as:-

1) Development of mechanisms to mobilize financial resources from both public and private sector for ST&I;
2) Development and promotion of a robust institutional framework for mobilization and management of ST&I resources for strategic national priorities;
3) Support for establishment of a mechanism for regular review of the funding mechanisms in science, technology and innovation; and
4) Review of administrative and financial procedures for ST&I funding to enhance realization of set targets.

To achieve this goal, institutional re-organization and strategic alignment was necessary. While the development of science and technology is a prime responsibility of the Government and user organizations in centres of economic activities, it is necessary that a proper institutional framework be established with the role of harnessing and directing funds towards meeting the national ST&I goals. This need led to enactment of the Science Technology and Innovation (ST&I) Act of 2013. The ST&I Act No. 28, Section 32, of 2013 led to the establishment of a National Research Fund (NRF) with a mandate to mobilize, allocate and manage financial resources to facilitate an effective national innovation system that would create required knowledge and innovations in all fields of Science and Technology for the growing economy.

The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Science and Technology formally published a Legal Notice No. 129 in the Special Issue of Kenya Gazette Supplement No. 144 dated 19th November 2014 announcing the commencement of the establishment of NRF as provided in the ST&I Act of 2013. This led to the appointment of NRF Board of Trustees who were gazetted on 24th July, 2015. The Board was subsequently inaugurated on 10th November, 2015. The NRF secretariat of three officers was appointed in December, 2015. As established in Part VII of the ST&I Act, 2013, NRF will constitute money provided by Treasury amounting to 2% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product every year, other Money as may be designated by Parliament and other sums of money as may be received as donations, endowment or grants.