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European Union sets up fund for African innovations

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The European Union (EU) has unveiled a multibillion-rand programme that will fund research and innovation initiatives on the African continent.

This was announced during a virtual event hosted by SA’s Department of Science and Innovation and the EU.

The “Africa Initiative”, which is launched under the Horizon Europe banner, has a budget of €350 million (roughly R6 billion), revealed the EU.

According to the EU, the Horizon Europe 2021-2022 work programme includes 36 topics and calls for proposals that are particularly relevant for the African continent, focusing on public health, innovation and technology, and science capacity, among other areas.

Furthermore, African researchers and innovators will be able to tap into the €350 million budget to bring their locally-adapted solutions to life.

Maria Cristina Russo, director for international cooperation in research and innovation at the European Commission, encouraged researchers and innovators to participate in the Africa Initiative.

With Russo as a strategic partner, the EU seeks to enhance cooperation with Africa to promote actions targeted at finding locally-adapted solutions to challenges that are global in nature, but often hit Africa the hardest.

“We have a long-standing relationship cooperation in research and innovation with South Africa. We have a science and technology agreement, which was formalised in 1997. It has been the basis for having an international cooperation at a time when the Horizon Europe programmes were not open to the participation of all scientists around the world – now they are.

“This agreement is very important because it puts our cooperation with South Africa to an important political level. The cooperation with South Africa is key, not only in terms of bi-lateral cooperation, but also for the role that South Africa has had and continues to have within the African Union context.”

Russo explained that Horizon Europe is the Horizon 2020 programme, which made funding available between 2014 and 2020 for research and innovation, adding that its emphasis was on excellent science, industrial leadership and tackling societal challenges.

Horizon Europe is the EU’s research and innovation framework programme running from 2021-2027. It has a budget of €95.5 billion for the period of seven years, making it the most ambitious research and innovation programme in the world.

“African scientists are welcome to participate in the Africa Initiative, as well as to all the calls within Horizon Europe,” she says.

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