Brussels, 22 Apr 2005
Scientific collaboration between South Africa and the EU has been extremely successful over the past year, the South Africa-European Union (SA-EU) Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee (JSTCC) has announced.
The Committee, which met in Pretoria, South Africa, for its Annual Meeting on 14 and 15 April to review collaboration between the two parties, welcomed increased South African participation in Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) projects and the fruitful exchanges of views on policy developments and the preparation of the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). Yet, stated the Committee, efforts are still required to 'further improve and deepen cooperation'.
'The fruitful exchange of views on science and technology policy development [...] has highlighted the partners' respective commitments to increasing their expenditure on research and development, and their efforts to optimally harness knowledge and innovation as instruments to promote economic growth and competitiveness, as well as social development and cohesion,' stated the Committee, calling for a continued and regular policy dialogue for mutually beneficial learning.
The Committee noted the successful participation by South African research organisations in several of the FP6 thematic priorities as well as in the focused activity for cooperation with developing countries (INCO). South African researchers performed best in the FP6's thematic priorities for biotechnology and genomics for health, food safety and quality, global change and ecosystems, as well as nanotechnology, materials and production. However, there was little or no South African participation in the thematic priority areas of aeronautics and space and citizens and governance in the knowledge-based society. Similarly, the FP6 Marie Curie mobility instruments failed to attract South African researchers.
As a result, the ability of South African researchers to enter FP6 consortia was identified as one of the key challenges for improved success. In this regard, the Committee highlighted the crucial role to be played by the South African NCPs (National Contact Points) in networking with their European counterparts. Indeed, following the concerted interventions by the responsible NCP, there has been a significant improvement in South African participation under the Information Society Technologies (IST) priority over the past year. The JSTCC therefore agreed that the efforts of the NCPs should be stepped up and that their institutional interface with the European Commission should be strengthened.
The Committee also called on the EU to include specific reference to international cooperation in the work programmes of the thematic priorities since it has proven to significantly enhance developing countries' participation.
The JSTCC welcomed the imminent launch of the European South African Science and Technology Advancement Programme (ESASTAP) funded under the Specific Support Action (SSA). ESASTAP will be a dedicated platform to promote SA-EU science and technology cooperation in the areas of aeronautics, earth observation, surface transport and the hydrogen economy where little collaboration currently exists.
'Renewed joint efforts will also be undertaken to promote improved South African uptake of the Marie Curie Mobility Instruments, especially the International Incoming and Outgoing Fellowship,' stated the Committee.
Both parties also called for further efforts to promote interregional partnership strategies. The Group on Earth Observation (GEO) to advance the global sustainable development agenda, which is co-chaired by the EU and South Africa, was highlighted as a perfect example of this type of cooperation. Further interaction between the EU and continental and regional science and technology programmes in Africa, like the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is now needed.
Furthermore, a reinforced science and technology policy dialogue between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States was underlined as a necessity.
There is an urgent need 'for stepped up research capacity-building in the ACP,' believes the Committee who welcomed 'the efforts of the various services in the European Commission to address this challenge, including the preparation of the ACP science and technology capacity-building programme.'
In order to achieve these objectives, a SA-EU Science and Technology Action Plan for 2005-2006, will serve as a flexible management tool to guide joint efforts until the next JSTCC meeting in 2006.
For further information about the South Africa-European Union Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee, please contact:
Daan du Toit
Department of Science and Technology (South Africa)
Tel: + 12 841 4331