Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

South African institutions can access European Union (EU) funding for ICT research if they are willing to collaborate with their European counterparts. This message emerged in Pretoria yesterday, at the first EuroAfrica-ICT (Start) Awareness Workshop.

The two-day event is a component of the EuroAfrica-ICT initiative, which aims to connect sub-Saharan African and European organisations for partnerships in science and technology development. Government, academia and industry are represented.

Speaking yesterday, Karine Valin, project coordinator of the initiative and MD of France-based Sigma Consultants, warned delegates that while the opportunities are immense, the process is difficult.

“The EU has a budget of 53.2 billion euros set aside for research and development funding through its seventh framework programme (FP7). Some 9.1 billion euros of this is set aside for ICT research. There are opportunities for non-European organisations to access these funds. However, there are challenges like finding partners from three different EU countries to collaborate with,” she said.

While the EuroAfrica-ICT initiative does not facilitate applications for funding, it promotes awareness of research and development programmes and projects across Europe and Africa.

This enables the organisation to facilitate communication between potential partners, says Johan Eksteen, EuroAfrica's local contact and manager of the technological research programme at the Meraka Institute.

“This is a funded project, not a funding project. However, we do have access to information regarding funding instruments and international R&D organisations that are interested in collaborating with likeminded counterparts in Africa. Our role is simply to ‘oil the gears' through supporting, connecting and advising parties.”

Accessing funding from outside of the country is becoming particularly important, particularly as local opportunities are over-subscribed, says Eksteen.

“However, with international funding come outside desires. The FP7 opportunity could help local organisations achieve their objectives. But it will only happen if these objectives coincide with those of the EU. The same applies for almost all research funding,” he adds.

Creating an environment to connect with interested local, African and European parties is in itself an important step, says Eksteen.

“Innovation almost always takes place at the boundaries; bringing people and organisations together can provide the catalyst for new ideas which go on to become major innovations.”