EU and Africa: science, technology and innovation

EU and Africa: science, technology and innovation
10 December, 2013

Andree Carter

Andree Carter recently attended the EU-Africa high level policy dialogue (HLPD) on science, technology and innovation in Brussels on behalf of BIS.

I recently attended the EU-Africa high level policy dialogue (HLPD) on science, technology and innovation in Brussels on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Andy Cherry of the Association of Commonwealth Universities supported me as an EU-Africa expert. Andy leads the EU funded international cooperation network on Sub Saharan Africa (CAAST-NET+).

The HLPD was organised by Directorate-General (D-G) for Research and Innovation and the African Union Commission and was attended by representatives of 18 EU and 23 African countries from ministries of science, education, foreign affairs and in some cases their international development counterparts.  The HLPD recognises there are many EU and African science technology and innovation initiatives but it aims to provide:

  • (short-term) an overarching framework for high level dialogue, prioritisation and implementation – a roadmap will be produced by experts for September 2014
  • (long-term) jointly funded science, technology and innovation (STI) partnerships between EU and Africa.

Unlike many EU meetings where you feel things are going round and round in circles and no decisions are made, I was impressed that the Bureau (secretariat) had already prepared well-written draft documents on the terms of reference, conclusions and the way forward. A great idea as this helped the very large HLPD group concentrate and agree that the initial focus of the initiative will be on ‘the role of science technology and innovation (STI) in food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture’.  Decisions were aided by the high level presence of the EU DG of Research and Innovation, Robert Jan Smits, and senior members of the African Union Commission.

Three common challenges were prioritised:

  • the contribution of family farms and smallholders
  • eco/sustainable intensification pathways to food security (covering the whole supply chain including waste)
  • managing risks associated with water supply, and land and water management issues for sustainable agriculture and food security.

Enhancing technical competence (individual and infrastructure) is a specific focus for:

  • schools, researchers, the public and policy makers
  • investment in research infrastructures
  • innovation and entrepreneurial capacities, especially for SMEs.

An expert group will be appointed by March 2014 to produce a road map by September 2014 and the UK will submit nominations for the group.  A statement from the HLPD on the role of STI has been prepared to feed into the EU-Africa Heads of State meeting in April 2014.  UKCDS will be working with its members to consider how the UK wishes to continue to engage with the EU-Africa initiative and the implications of the HLPD agreement for UK science.

Interesting snippets:

  • Africans reported the extensive interest from China in building science and technology partnerships and noted that collaboration with the EU was not always a given.
  • The precall for the first Horizon 2020 programme Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies includes opportunities for collaboration with African partners.

Image credit: Clark Van Der Beken via Unsplash

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