By: Thandisizwe Mgudlwa – AfricanBrains
Engineering giants Germany have strengthened ties with South Africa in developing their science and technology portfolio.
The agreement aims to strengthen science, technology and innovation (STI) cooperation and collaboration in cutting-edge research between the two countries.
This announcement was made during the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013 in Cape Town, and themed “Enhancing Science Partnerships for Innovation and Sustainable Development.”
The two countries committed themselves to building initiatives to strengthen their cooperation in science and technology and expect to provide the momentum for trend-setting projects.
In a joint initiative between the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and SA’s Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Year of Science honours the two countries’ strong relations in science and research. With efforts to expand the relations even more on the pipeline.
Annette Schavan, the German minister for science and technology said: “The aim is to pool our scientific capacity and strengthen existing research partnerships in GermanyandSouth Africa,” she explained at the opening ceremony.
While her South African counter part Naledi Pandor, remarked that SA has keenly pursued the development of regional, continental and global partnerships to identify solutions to our socio economic challenges.
“The Year of Science will offer both countries an opportunity to attract young people to science, technology and innovation, as well as expand and deepen bilateral cooperation in these fields”, Pandor added.
SA and Germany had signed a science and technology cooperation agreement in 1996 during the Nelson Mandela administration.
The partnership included a joint research fund established to support research and development (R&D) projects in agricultural, life, earth, mathematical, engineering, and physical and health sciences.
In the scope of the German-South African call for initiatives more than 200 applications were handed in by the science community of both countries. Of all applications 41 initiatives have been jointly agreed on which represent all thematic fields of the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013 and receive funding.
“For example, collaboration between the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar (BUW) and the North West University (NWU) on sustainable resource-based sanitation and organic waste utilisation supports the exchange of knowledge and promotes mobility among young scientists. Another project between the Universityof Pretoria and the Fachhochschule Kiel aims at promoting gender equality in sciences by financing a conference entitled “Women in Science – Promoting Excellence and Innovation for Future Development.”
Meanwhile, Professor Thebe Medupe from the North West University revealed how difficult it had been to attract youths from disadvantaged communities into Astronomy for instance.
“It’s been a challenge to get black African students from the urban universities like Wits and UCT to come aboard.
We have now expanded to the former black universities in the villages. And now we are getting the balance with 113 having taken part in the winter school and 36 have joined the expanded Honours Program”.
Schavan added that policy-makers and society are facing the big challenges of climate change, advancing urbanization, the use of scarce resources, securing the world food supply and solving global health problems. We must address these challenges in a joint effort.
The Year of Science is also expected to strengthen research partnerships for innovation and sustainable development and focuses on seven thematic fields, namely, astronomy, the bioeconomy, humanities and social sciences, human capital development, innovation in the health industry, climate change and urbanisation.
This year’s event was attended by representatives of the political and scientific communities and by partners in the Year of Science
Germany is a close partner and funder in the implementation of several regional technology transfer and climate change initiatives.