Promoting African European Research Infrastructure Partnerships

EuroAfrica-ICT Partners involved in the “Promoting African European Research Infrastructure Partnerships” (PAERIP) project came together on 19-20 May 2011 for its launch. Coordinated by the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST), consortium partners also include: TechnoScene (Pty) Ltd (South Africa), the Association of Commonwealth Universities (UK), ISC Intelligence in Science (Belgium), Sigma Orionis (France), Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (Egypt), National Documentation Centre (Greece) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (Kenya).

The meeting, held in Brussels, highlighted PAERIP’s importance and potential as a mechanism for increasing science capacity, a key feature of science policy in Africa, and as an attribute of joint Africa-EU partnerships.

There is currently significant political attention on promoting science and technology (S&T) partnerships between the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU). The Joint Africa-EU Strategy, which was further refined at the recent 2010 Tripoli Summit, notably includes a dedicated partnership initiative on science, information society and space initiative. Several collaborative efforts are currently being implemented under this Partnership, which has acted as an effective platform to promote and build technological capacity, innovation and space knowledge as it seeks to harness the potential of S&T to contribute to Africa’s sustainable development in addition to addressing shared global challenges.

One of the expected outcomes of the 2nd action plan of the Africa-EU Strategy is an improved pan-African infrastructure and facilities for R&D. PAERIP is specifically focused on addressing this outcome by providing content through undertaking a series of relevant studies, which will inform the policy dialogue and subsequent action plans.

PAERIP looks to engage with the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), a strategic instrument to develop the scientific integration of Europe internationally through competition and open access to high quality research infrastructures. The project will commence with an initiative to promote research infrastructure partnerships between Europe and Africa by auditing the status quo of current research infrastructures in order to develop a baseline for future research infrastructures in both continents.

PAERIP will support international cooperation and policy initiatives related to research infrastructure projects at the global level or, with specific interest, at the continental level. The project will also include a specific focus on analysing the socio-economic impacts of research infrastructures, either resulting from the utilisation of existing infrastructures (e.g. seed banks for agricultural research) or the construction of new facilities (e.g. resultant employment creation).

PAERIP’s focus will be fully aligned with that of the prescribed objectives of “support actions” under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). It will directly contribute to the implementation of FP7, especially the research infrastructure and international cooperation components of the Capacities programme (specific actions will notably be undertaken to promote African-European cooperation under the remaining research infrastructure calls for proposals to be published under FP7).

PAERIP will be forward-looking as its results will serve to inform the preparation of both the research infrastructure and international cooperation activities of the new Common Strategic Framework for Research and Innovation, EU’s successor to the Seventh Framework Programme.

The project will actively seek to develop synergy between research infrastructure cooperation and other related policies, notably those related to cooperation between Africa and Europe (thus the project’s strong focus on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy) whilst also considering synergies between the Framework Programmes and development cooperation instruments, such as the European Development Fund (EDF), which could be leveraged to support research infrastructure partnerships.

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