Identifying Areas for Research Cooperation with the EU

"Science knows no boundaries and the issues that research is asked to deal with are increasingly global. The challenge is to make sure that international S&T cooperation contributes effectively to stability, security and prosperity in the world" (European Research Area (ERA) New Perspectives Green Paper).

S&T continues to be one of the main driving forces behind the strengthening of South Africa's extensive political, economic and development cooperation ties with the EU. The first intergovernmental agreement concluded between the EU and South Africa, the Agreement on S&T Cooperation signed in 1996, amongst other benefits, afforded South African researchers the opportunity to participate fully in the EU's Framework Programmes for Research and Technology Development (FP).

South Africa is one of the most successful Third Country participants of the EU's Framework Programmes. Under FP4, South African research groups collaborated in more than 40 research projects with European partners. This grew to over 60 project participations under FP5and over 117project participations by South African researchers in FP6. South Africa is now ranked fourth, behind the United States of America, the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation, in terms of successful FP6 participation by non-EU countries. The extent of South African participation, viz. number of participations / thematic priority area also significantly increased in FP6, with first-time participation by South African researchers in several thematic priority areas.

The country is making concerted efforts to promote the participation of South African organisations in FP7. Participation is, however, not promoted as an objective per se, but instead the point of departure, with emphasis on how Framework Programme participation can support the attainment of strategic national research objectives.

The Framework Programmes, as instruments for promoting European integration and competitiveness, are first and foremost focused on European objectives; this requires that other countries' participation should be guided and informed by their own strategic priorities. In the ICT domain, for example, an exercise was taken where the FP7 ICT thematic priorities were mapped with South African ICT R&D priorities. Successful South African participation in the FP7 Call 1 already exceeded participation in the FP6 IST theme. An overview of South African participation in FP6 IST and FP7 ICT projects is provided below.

South Africa has also launched a number of initiatives to promote improved South African FP participation. These include:

- The appointment by the DST of a Senior S&T Representative in Brussels to foster relations with the European Commission and European research and technology organisations.

- The appointment of a dedicated FP7 Network of National Contact Points, similar to the Networks existing in Europe.

- The creation, by the DST, of a seed funding instrument to bring South African and European partners preparing FP6 proposals together through for example the awarding of travel grants, as well as a strategic co-investment instrument to afford under certain conditions "matching funding" to South African FP participants.

Within the context of internationalisation of research, support of South African participation in the FP, and enhancing S&T cooperation, the DST also co-ordinated (and co-funded) the European-South African S&T Advancement Programme (ESASTAP), a FP6 Support Action, aimed at improving scientific and technological cooperation between South Africa and the European Union. Through the FP7 support action, "Strengthening the European-South African Science and Technology Advancement Programme (ESASTAP2 )" the DST will seek to continue and deepen the partnership with the EU. ESASTAP2 will reinforce and intensify existing relationships and initiatives and undertake new interventions to broaden and deepen cooperation. The DST is also engaged in other support mechanisms, such as the Network for the Coordination and Advancement of sub-Saharan Africa-EU S&T Cooperation (CAASTNet) and INCONTACT, a INCO NCPs project.

The table below provides an overview of FP6 and FP7 ICT projects in which South African organisations have participated / are participating in as consortium partner.

Project title and acronym South African partner organisation
Advancing ICT for disaster risk management (DRM) in Africa (AIDA), FP7 CSIR
Integrated risk management for Africa (IRMA), FP7 CSIR
IST-Africa 2008 - 2009, Regional Impact of Information Society Technologies in Africa (IST-AFRICA), FP7 Wits Commercial Enterprise (Pty) Ltd
Digital world forum on accessible and inclusive ICT (DIGITALWORLD), FP7 CSIR
Connecting the EU and sub-Saharan Africa for ICT partnerships (EUROAFRICA-ICT), FP7 CSIR
Free/Libre and open source software: international cooperation development roadmap (FLOSSINCLUDE), FP7 University of the Western Cape
Shrink-path of ultra-low power super-conducting electronics (S-PULSE), FP7 Stellenbosch University
Building Europe- Africa collaborative network for applying IST in health care sector (BEANISH), FP6 University of the Western Cape
European research network on excellence in processing open cultural heritage (EPOCH), FP6 University of Cape Town
EXPReS: a production astronomy e-VLBI infrastructure (EXPRES), FP6 National Research Foundation
Free libre and open source software - Worldwide impact study (FLOSSWORLD), FP6 University of the Western Cape, CSIR
Regional impact of information society technologies in Africa (IST-AFRICA 2005 - 2006) (IST-AFRICA), FP6 CSIR
A partnership between the EU and Africa in the ICT area (START), FP6 CSIR
Urban rail infrastructure (URBAN TRACK), FP6 Stellenbosch University
Virtual Research Lab for a Knowledge Community in Production (VRL KCIP), FP6 Stellenbosch University