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Recommendations for developing research collaboration with Africa made at Addis Ababa GSC seminar

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Addis Ababa, June 27-28: “Global Science Collaboration: Science Capacity Building & the Implications for the Development Process”, a follow up to the “EU Science: Global Challenges, Global Collaboration” conference (ES:GC2), held in Brussels in March 2013, brought together scientists, policymakers and industry to discuss developing research capacity in collaboration with Africa.

The seminar was held on the occasion of a wider series of S&T events in Addis Ababa, organised, led or supported by the European Commission, the African Union Commission, CAAST-Net+ and JEG8 from the 24-28 of June.

The meeting coincided with talks between the European Union and the African Union in the context of pending policy impacting research capacity building, namely Horizon 2020 - the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation-, the Development Cooperation Instrument, the European Development Fund and the ACP S&T Programme.

The purpose of the seminar was to make a contribution to this process and led to the production of recommendations concerning the need for initiatives on a biobanking infrastructure, a clinical trials infrastructure and a patent data initiative for Africa.

These recommendations will feed into a report that consequently will be sent to the respective European Union and African Union institutions. Their implementation will be discussed during a workshop in the context of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, taking place in Addis Ababa in the last week of November 2013.
Under the heading of the seminar, speakers coming from different geographic and academic backgrounds elaborated the potential on developing research capacity in collaboration with Africa in their respective fields.

Dr George Dagher of INSERM, made a presentation entitled, “how biobanks in Africa will enable better health”. On the issue of economic disparities and its affect on access to health advancements, Dr Dagher said at the Addis seminar, “Sustainable and equitable health advancement is not yet secure from a global perspective. Much depends on reducing economic disparities, access to pharmaceutical treatment, sanitary infrastructures, clinical and research infrastructures.”

Declan Kirrane of ISC – organizer of ES:GC2 and Global Science Collaboration: Science Capacity Building & the Implications for the Development Process – presented the session, “Global Science Collaboration (GSC): the development challenge”. On this he stated, “Emerging global challenges demand a global response. A policy idea has to be established that formulates a solution for global & societal challenges which places science at the centre of the development agenda.”

Kirrane also held a presentation entitled, “Opportunities for cooperation with Europe within the context of the African European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP)”. AERAP, a stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector was established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe. The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness in Africa and Europe. Kirrane highlighted the opportunities for African-European cooperation within the AERAP context including, the opportunity for research collaboration, researcher training and mobility programmes, and research infrastructure partnerships.

A presentation on “Structuring the clinical research capacity to address major health challenges: expanding the ECRIN model to Africa” was given by Prof Jacques Demotes of INSERM. Prof Demotes spoke about the need for a ‘clinical trials infrastructure initiative in Africa’.

“Patents and clean energy technologies in Africa” was another theme of the seminar. Mr Gerard Owens of the European Patent Office (EPO) presented the theme and spoke about the importance of Africa in clean energy technology, as a “vast untapped potential for clean energy technology”. Africa has a huge untapped potential for generating clean energy, including enough hydroelectric power from its seven major river systems to serve the whole continent’s energy needs, as well as great potential for solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy etc. Although major hurdles exist also in the distribution of energy, there is potential for Africa to leapfrog existing fossil fuel energy sources and exploit clean energy from the outset to meet its developing needs. The EPO report focused on the patent landscape for clean energy technologies (CET) in the continent, as a specific geographical area which could greatly benefit from their use and technology transfer in this area

In the context of the “Scientific collaboration for development – case studies” theme, Mr Jean-Cyril Dagallier of ACP sugar research programme (ACP-SRP) gave an overview of the European Union funded project. The ACP-SRP is part of the drive to reduce poverty and increase growth and living standards in ACP countries (of which 59% are African). The ACP-SRP’s aim is to provide solutions to the main challenges faced by the sugar industry in ACP countries by implementing research and innovation projects. It is a forerunner in using science as an essential tool for development and aims to expand the valuable human capital resources and research infrastructure in ACP countries to promote knowledge based economic development.

The seminar also focused on space research and collaboration with Africa. Dr Mae Jemison of The 100 Year Starship (100YSS) led discussions on the theme, “Space research to promote the human good: a theme for collaboration with Africa”. 100 YSS is an independent, non-governmental organization to ensure that the research, technology development and enabling capabilities required for human travel to another star exist within the next 100 years. Dr Jemison, former astronaut and first woman of colour to travel into space, noted at the Addis seminar, “While the grand challenge is interstellar travel, the immediate and overarching goal is enabling explosive innovation globally - not even the sharpest blade can cut its own handle and that’s what collaboration is all about.”

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ISC Intelligence in Science
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Editor’s note
The event comes at a crucial time for the future of science in Africa and globally. Africa is making unprecedented investments in science and holds enormous potential to emerge as a new hub for global science collaboration. In 2012, following a global competitive tendering process, a consortium of 9 African nations was chosen to host up to 70% of the Square Kilometre Array, the world’s largest radio astronomy project in history. This global project, which will also be sited in Australia, will construct the most sensitive and technologically advanced radio telescopes and astronomical system ever built and it stands alongside the Large Hadron Collider and ITER in Europe, as one of the most ambitious scientific experiments ever.

In March 2012, the European Parliament adopted Written Declaration 45/2011 on Science Capacity Building in Africa: promoting European African radio astronomy partnerships. This declaration recognised the value of research infrastructures in promoting capacity building as well as Africa’s unique competitive advantage in the study of radio astronomy and acknowledged that further European involvement in African radio astronomy can become a powerful driver of growth on both continents.

It is also an important time for the future of global R&D funding. The EU institutions are currently negotiating legislative proposals for R&D funding over the period 2014 to 2020, €70bn have been foreseen for Horizon 2020, the next Framework Programme for Research and Development and Demonstration (2014-2020). International cooperation is set to be a key focus of Horizon 2020. In addition, major legislation covering Clinical Trials, Medical Devices, Data Protection and patents will be considered in 2013.

For further information:  http://iscintelligence.com/event.php?id=88 and http://www.globalsciencecollaboration.org/about

BBMRI (Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure)
BBMRI was one of the first projects entering the European Research Infrastructure preparatory phase of the ESFRI roadmap funded by the European Commission (EC). The preparatory phase of BBMRI came to its end in January 2011. Over the past 3 years BBMRI has grown into a 54-member consortium with more than 225 associated organisations (largely biobanks) from over 30 countries, making it one of the largest research infrastructure projects in Europe.

Further information: http://bbmri.eu/home

European Patent Office (EPO)’s patent information and patent statistics services
With over 80 million documents, all sorted and classified according to technology type, the free databases of the European Patent Office make it easy to find a wealth of relevant scientific and technical information. Most of the documents describe technical solutions which are free to use, because the patents are not in force. And thanks to Patent Translate, documents in over a dozen languages can now be understood instantly. Patent information can support more than just research, the databases can lead to previously unknown suppliers, partners or rivals too, providing a more complete view of the market.

Further information: www.epo.org

100 Year Starship (100YSS)
100YSS is an independent, non-governmental organization to ensure that the research, technology development and enabling capabilities required to for human travel to another star exist within the next 100 years.  Started with seed-funding won through a competitive grant from DARPA (U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) with support from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) in February 2012, 100YSS is committed to inclusion and actively applying space derived advances to enhancing life on Earth every step of the way.  For example, one project envisioned is a collaborative space-based remote sensing for land, crop and ocean management, education and economic development with developing and emerging countries.

Further information: http://100yss.org/

ACP-SRP
The ACP Sugar Research Programme, funded by the European Union through DEVCO/Europe Aid, is part of the drive to reduce poverty and increase growth and living standards in ACP countries. The ACP-SRP aims to provide solutions to the main challenges faced by the sugar industry in ACP countries by implementing research and innovation projects, covering three main areas of research.

The mission of the ACP Sugar Research Programme is to provide solutions to the sugar industry in ACP countries by responding to a selected number of clearly identified technological challenges that hamper the sugarcane sector's performance. Enhancing the capacity for sugar industries in ACP countrieswill ease the transition to a deregulated sugar market which offers fewer preferences and increase the competitiveness of the sugar sector in ACP countries, allowing them to compete in global markets.

Further information: http://www.acp-srp.eu/en

The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP)
AERAP  is a response to the calls of the European Parliament, through the adoption of the Written Declaration 45/2011, and of the Heads of State of the African Union, through their decision “Assembly/AU/Dec.407 CXVIII”, for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa-EU cooperation. AERAP is a new stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe. The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across both continents. The platform will also enable effective dialogue to build a shared vision for international cooperation in radio astronomy.

Further information on AERAP: www.aerap.org

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