Science - April 20, 2006

South seeks EU research partners

Thirty representatives of research institutes in China, Mexico, Egypt, Serbia and fifteen other southern countries visited Wageningen UR at the beginning of April. Divided into tables according to continent, they discussed the usefulness of European subsidies.

They are called ‘national focal points’: people who maintain relations for their country with research institutions in Europe and their financier, the European Union. They also promote networking between researchers for collaboration on proposals for European projects. The EU offers developing countries the opportunity to participate in a ‘top-up call’, explains Willem Wolters the EU financial man at Wageningen UR. This is a way of acquiring financing to participate in the EU Framework Programmes through European research institutions.

One of the guests at the meeting is Salome Kirea from Kenya. She tells that there is a lot of contact between individual researchers in Kenya and Europe. ‘For instance between sandwich PhD students from Kenya, who spend some time here in Wageningen and then go back to Kenya. Or through student exchanges. But there are still few partnerships between institutes. It is good to be here to be able to make contact at a different level.’

South Africa scores well in the European research financing: Geoff Meese tells that his country has participated since the fourth framework programme, and has fifty projects within the sixth framework programme, which comes to an end this year. ‘But the EU is looking for added value. Not everyone is welcome. In South Africa we want to involve the less prestigious universities, which are still the universities that were black during the apartheid era. But that is not the EU’s worry. The leader of a research programme consortium is interested in quality. Nevertheless various previously black universities have managed to develop into excellent universities.’ / JT

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