NRF Forges International Collaborations for Impactful Research

NRF Forges International Collaborations for Impactful Research

The National Research Foundation (NRF) participated in the 4th Africa-Europe Science Collaboration Forum organised by the African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP) from 22-25 April 2024, held at the South African Embassy in Brussels, Belgium. This significant event brought together leading scientists, policymakers, programme managers, and stakeholders from Africa and Europe to discuss and advance scientific cooperation across various disciplines and leverage the European Commission’s funding instruments such as Horizon Europe and its successor, Framework Programme 10 (FP10), which will commence in 2028.

The AERAP Science Collaboration Forum serves as a platform for the promotion of dialogue, to share best practices, and forge partnerships between Africa and Europe in the realm of science, technology, and innovation. As a strategic participant, the NRF contributed its expertise and insights to the discussions to highlight prospective plans to increase its support towards funding academic programmes through international university networks and industry engagements; reinforce its commitment to driving scientific excellence; and address global challenges through collaborative efforts. The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), South African Medical Research Council, Agricultural Research Council, South African National Energy Development Institute, and Stellenbosch University’s Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies also convened at the Forum to share their respective initiatives and opportunities for Africa-EU collaboration.

One of the primary focal points of the forum was to explore avenues for the enhancement of Africa-Europe research collaboration in fields such as astronomy, climate science, biotechnology, and renewable energy. These areas of research hold immense potential to address pressing societal issues and to drive sustainable development on both continents. By fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge exchange, the forum aimed to leverage the collective expertise of African and European scientists to tackle shared challenges and capitalise on emerging opportunities.

“The NRF emphasised its commitment towards increased programmes that focus on industry placements, postgraduate Fellowship programmes, and mobility and exchange programmes. The NRF’s participation at the AERAP Forum underscores its dedication to collaboration with national and international institutions; advancement of scientific research and innovation on a global scale; and ensuring that policies are strategically informed and in line with national, regional and continental strategies,” says Dr Thandi Mgwebi, Group Executive at the National Research Foundation.

Moreover, the forum provided a platform for the NRF to showcase its ongoing initiatives and research endeavours which can be scaled up through international university partnerships and networks to highlight the organisation’s contributions to the scientific community and its role in driving innovation-led growth. The NRF actively engaged in discussions around capacity building, skills development, and research infrastructure investment, in recognition of the importance of a robust scientific ecosystem that nurtures talent, fosters scientific excellence, and boosts economic growth.

The key points discussed in the meeting were:

  • The inclusion of the African research community in partnerships from the start, rather than as an afterthought.
  • The need for more equitable and mutually beneficial partnerships between Africa and Europe, with local benefits and inclusion of African researchers and communities.
  • Capacity development initiatives in areas such as data science, biotechnology, and precision medicine.
  • Barriers to collaboration between African and European universities.
  • Strengthening international cooperation and establishing partnerships to contribute to global challenges like health, sustainability and digital transformation.

The NRF and the Embassy of South Africa in Brussels hosted a partners networking evening attended by partners and representatives from the business community in the EU. The stage is set for the implementation of further initiatives under the SA-EU collaboration framework. The NRF and DSI will lead further engagements with the EU Director- General, Education, Youth, Sports and Culture on new initiatives planned for launch this year.

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