The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) launched a report providing insights on South Africa’s participation in the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) of the European Union (EU) on 7 December 2015.
With a budget of over €50 billion over seven years, the FP7 was one of the largest sources of funding for scientific research in the world.
This report, entiteld 'Insights into South Africa’s Participation in the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development of the European Commission' was completed in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Three data sources were used: i.e. information in the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS) database for 122 FP7 projects that involved South African participation; a focus group with officials from the DST; and two web surveys – with the South African participants in FP7 projects and the international coordinators of FP7 projects with South African participation.
The DST’s strategic intent in its engagement with the EU, as well as its preference for equally beneficial partnerships were highlighted. Alignment between the national priorities and the 122 FP7 projects were aslo explored.
Subject categories of the FP7 projects, reveal a strong focus on coordination or scientific research, and also medicine and health. Projects with a focus on health are connected to veterinary and animal sciences, and agricultural biotechnology. The latter concentration, apart from supporting the grand challenge of 'farmer to pharma', also speaks to a number of technological missions that fall under the innovation pillar in the National Research and Development (R&D) Strategy, most notably biotechnology and technology for poverty reduction. Space science, energy security and information and communication technology (ICT) are also present.
South Africa’s participation in FP7 also resulted from several factors. First is its expertise in a particular area of interest. Second, established networks and collaborations create a situation whereby South African researchers are almost automatically drawn into the collaborative activities of the parties in their network. A third theme is that of South Africa and the rest of Africa being included in FP7 to strengthen the global character of a project.
Recommendations of the report range from capacity building to strengthen support to South African researchers, addressing project management challenges, to dissemination of the research project outputs.
It was also observed that the alignment between FP7 projects and the country’s national STI priorities appears to be best when DST co-funding is involved, not because of the additional funding but because of the project scrutiny that occurs as part of the process of approval.