7 January 2014

Africa: A New Horizon for African-European Research Links

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One starting point is the EU-funded CAAST-Net Plus network to advance research cooperation between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

This provides online information and organises briefing events - info-days - describing its funding opportunities in various African cities. Scientists can also monitor online information themselves, join professional networks through online services such as LinkedIn and attend international conferences to seek potential partners, they suggest.

Du Toit urges researchers to search for the details of calls for proposals well before their official release, to provide extra time to forge partnerships and prepare projects.

Draft documents are generally available online, either through official or informal channels, before the final version is published.

The work programmes detailing the research topics that the Commission wants to fund under Horizon 2020 - to the tune of more than €15 billion over the first two years - released on 11 December already include specific calls for food and agriculture research involving European and African researchers.

If you are keen to take part in an EU project, "tell all your European connections", du Toit recommends: some European scientists are unaware that organisations outside the EU are eligible for Horizon 2020 funding. Any legally established organisation performing research can take part, so universities, institutes, government departments, companies, NGOs and patient organisations are all eligible.

Horizon 2020 has been presented as a break from past research programmes, with a greater focus on innovation and a clear call for more industry participation.

But as far as African researchers are concerned, Horizon 2020 will not introduce any particular change compared with FP7, says Hogan, "aside from the European Commission's wish to see international cooperation continue to grow".

Hogan's role itself is testament to these intentions: his post was created last summer to develop science collaboration between the EU and Africa.

Last year, the European Commission updated its international cooperation strategy for research and innovation, which will apply to Horizon 2020. The plan will not change the rules for Africa.

"I'm very optimistic about Horizon 2020," says du Toit, adding that instead of doing "everything with everyone", the European Commission's cooperation efforts will be better focused on areas of mutual interest for both sides. "The whole programme is still open, but it's about making special efforts."

Link to Horizon 2020 funding opportunities

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