South Africa and EU aim to promote closer collaboration in research

July 18, 2005

Brussels, 15 Jul 2005

The South African Department of Science and Technology has launched a dedicated platform for promoting scientific and technological (S&T) cooperation between South Africa (SA) and the European Union (EU). Implemented by the South African Department of Science and Technology, the European South African Science and Technology Advancement Programme (ESASTAP) is supported by the European Commission as a Specific Support Action under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

ESASTAP was launched in South Africa on 28 June. Speaking at the European launch in Brussels on 14 July, South Africa's Senior Science and Technology Representative in Brussels, Dr Mandi Mzimba, emphasised that though SA and the EU already have a track record of cooperation in research, this was a sign of further, closer collaboration in future.

Since the signing of a S&T cooperation agreement between SA and the EU in 1996, 160 South African partners have participated in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Framework Programmes. Under FP6, South African researchers can participate in projects in all activity areas, and respective National Contact Points (NCPs) have been set up in SA.


There are currently organisations from SA represented in 50 projects approved under FP6, though some sectors, such as aerospace, are under-represented despite strong South African research capacity and potential. Broadening the range of collaboration, and focusing on these areas in particular, is one of the aims of the ESASTAP initiative.


The ESASTAP project coordinator, and General Manager for International Resources at the SA Department of S&T, Dr Neville Arendse, said, 'this is an important milestone of South African-EU partnership in science and technology,' and explained that the project aimed to enhance and deepen that relationship. 'Science is global in scope, and it is essential to strengthen our connections to global research', he continued.


Objectives would include promoting mutual learning and sharing the results of knowledge generation programmes, supporting researcher mobility to gain experience in top EU institutes and encouraging South African industry involvement to promote innovation and collaboration with academia.


Presenting ESASTAP's objectives and programme of activities, the project's manager, Mr Daan du Toit, Manager for Strategic Partnerships at the South African Department of Science and Technology, explained further. 'Europe remains South Africa's preferred international partner for science and technology,' he emphasised, going on to say that one of ESASTAP's priorities is to market South Africa's S&T excellence in Europe and assist European researchers in identifying and fostering appropriate partnerships with South African researchers.


One key priority will be Marie Curie Fellowships to promote researcher mobility between the EU and SA, in both directions. 'We will aim to market SA research organisations and universities as destinations for European researchers to spend time,' Mr du Toit explained, 'we have a rich, diverse scientific community in South Africa, just as in the EU'.


Two further dedicated instruments will also be available from the SA Department of S&T to support collaboration. The FP6 Seed Funding Instrument can be used to subsidise the travel costs necessary in meeting potential collaborative partners, whether researchers from SA are visiting the EU or vice versa. The FP6 Strategic Co-Investment Instrument, meanwhile, provides for the SA government to fund part of the remaining costs where an FP6 project does not receive full funding from the European Commission.

Following the launch events, ESASTAP will take a roadshow presentation to all EU member states and South African provinces. The dedicated ESASTAP website includes links to the relevant information in CORDIS, as well as partner searching, project database facilities and an ESASTAP newsletter. The project will also organise focused conferences, seminars and workshops, and dedicated help and support services.


Although ESASTAP will primarily be focused on promoting South African participation in FP6 and FP7, it will also aim to foster cooperation drawing on other instruments supporting SA-EU S&T partnerships, such as South Africa's bilateral cooperation arrangements with European countries. Other initiatives taking place within the context of the strategic partnership between SA and the EU include activities through COST (European CO-operation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research) and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership Programme (EDCTP). With offices in The Hague, the Netherlands, and Cape Town, South Africa, the EDCTP is a partnership between European and Developing Countries to enable clinical trials for drugs and vaccines against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.


Representing the European Commission at the event, Dr András Siegler, Director of International Scientific Cooperation at the Directorate-General for Research and Technological Development (DG RTD) said, 'this is an example of how countries across the world can promote international collaboration'. He expressed the hope that ESASTAP would also help cooperation with other countries in southern Africa and build new partnerships for African development.


Further programmes dedicated to regional research and development include the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


'ESASTAP should also boost South African participation in FP7, where collaboration with third countries will be even more important,' Dr Siegler continued, 'since international cooperation will be a major part across all the programmes.'
The ESASTAP web-site is accessible at the following URL:
http://www.esastap.org.za


Further information on international cooperation activities can be found on CORDIS at:
http://www.cordis.lu/fp6/inco.htm


and
http://www.cordis.lu/era/inco.htm
//RMK

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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