SA and US universities plot multidisciplinary research partnerships 

SA and US universities plot multidisciplinary research partnerships 

The National Research Foundation (NRF) in partnership with the United States (U.S.) Embassy in Pretoria, held a seminal conference on ‘Partnerships of the Future: Forging Southern Africa STEM and Educational Networks’, on 31 July 2023, in Pretoria. The event gathered senior research representatives from the U.S. and South African universities with the aim of promoting joint partnerships between the South African and U.S. higher education sectors. The attendees broke into high-level working groups that discussed cultivation of a shared vision for multi-disciplinary research collaborations, improving communication between U.S. and SA research partners, and generally leveraging networks.

The primary objectives of the conference were:

  • To share expertise and knowledge and build capacity in key sectors of education and research.
  • To establish and strengthen partnerships between research and education networks institutions in the United States and South Africa.
  • To initiate and develop possible U.S.-South African joint research projects, and,
  • To contribute to the long-term sustainable development of the education and research sector in South Africa.

Speaking at the event, the NRF CEO, Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, highlighted the continued need to deepen mutual partnership and networks which are ever so important in addressing the many challenges and opportunities. “The NRF will continue to play a facilitative role through new and existing partnerships, for instance with U.S. based institutions, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Fulbright programme”, he noted. Ms Vinny Pillay, Chief Director for International Cooperation and Resources at the Department of Science and Innovation, emphasised the need for inclusive and transformative partnerships that directly respond to South Africa’s challenges, including poverty, unemployment, and inequality. Dr Emmanuella Delva, acting Managing Director and Deputy for Research Policy USAID, noted the need for increased co-creation of programmes between South Africa and the U.S.

While the role of research institutions and funders remains key in generating innovation, co-creation of new knowledge and improved technologies, there is an increased need for institutions to establish innovative funding instruments that are flexible, inclusive, and dedicated to impactful research. In line with its efforts to amplify institution-to-institution partnerships, the NRF will continue to pursue and facilitate productive partnerships with and between universities and relevant international institutions, to garner support in key priority areas and foster reciprocal exchange of knowledge and sharing of high-end research infrastructure.

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