SA, Germany deepen science alliance

24 April 2013

South Africa and Germany have deepened their collaboration in science and technology and launched several initiatives in the field, it was announced at the close of the German-South African Year of Science last week.

The Year of Science was an initiative between South Africa’s Science and Technology Department and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

One of the major outcomes was the Science and Technology Department committing R4-million to improving the skills base in South Africa as part of a research programme partnership with Germany to better understand the earth system.

The deal was confirmed in a meeting between Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom and president of the Helmholtz Centre for Geosciences, Reinhard Huttl, in Berlin last Monday.

‘Enhancing competitiveness’

“For both our countries’ economies, strategic bilateral partnerships are key in engaging with the challenges that our countries and the globe face,” Hanekom said at the closing ceremony on Tuesday.

Scientific innovation in particular enhances competitiveness, economic and human capital development and technology transfer, according to Hanekom.

The two countries signed a science and technology cooperation agreement in 1996 with a joint research fund for research and development in agriculture, life, earth, mathematical, engineering, physical and health sciences.

Since then, over 400 research and development projects, worth over R80-million, have been funded at universities, research institutions and industrial partners.

The Year of Science created a “new quality of cooperation, improved contacts and networks, showing what a global responsibility could mean for the future”, said the Gernam Minister for Education and Research, Johanna Wanka.

Strengthening collaboration

“Our aim was to strengthen even more our collaboration in the field of science and technology – not only for the time of a year, but in the long run.

“We identified together a number of issues such as bio-economics, health economics, climate change and urbanisation,” she said.

Some of the other collaborative projects agreed on during the year include Germany joining the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) projects.

SASSCAL was developed to address global climate change problems in Africa, and involves South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.

“Following the Year of Science, there is a good indication that an increase in joint projects and demand for opportunities will derive from this bilateral cooperation, and that the cooperation will continue to serve as a catalyst for scientific development and improve the quality of life in the two countries,” the Science and Technology Department said.

SAinfo reporter