The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) signed a Declaration of Intent, launching a fourth bilateral South Africa – Norway research cooperation programme. The programme will have a strong focus on the blue economy, climate change, the environment and renewable energy, to be known as SANOCEAN.

The signing took place at the “Green Maritime’’ - Sustainable Use of the Ocean event which took place at the National Research Foundation (NRF) in Pretoria on December 6th 2017.  The event took place during the second SA-Norway Science Week.

Trine Skymoen, Ambassador of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, said in her opening remarks that the blue economy was critical to increased economic growth through agriculture, fisheries and international shipping.

“Oceans and coasts are the foundation of much of the world’s economy. Oceans have an enormous potential for value creation and growth and we expect to see high growth in sectors such as energy, aquaculture, fisheries and fish processing. There are also opportunities in sectors such as port activities, ship building and repair as well as maritime equipment and shipping. International shipping will continue to play a key facility role in world trade and South Africa and Norway are cooperating very, very closely to look for opportunities in these areas.”

“Our oceans are facing a number of serious threats and challenges and these include over-fishing, illegal fishing, environmental toxins, plastic waste and loss of biodiversity. Climate change is impacting the oceans and may lead to sea level rise, ocean acidification and possible shifts in the distribution of important fish stocks. This in turn is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.”

The first call for proposals to the programme is expected in March 2018 and the programme is expected to run until 2023. The SANOCEAN will be the fourth bilateral research programme between Norway and South Africa and follows the collaborative SANCOOP-programme which has been jointly operated by the National Research Foundation and the Research Council of Norway funding 19 bilateral research projects since 2013.

South Africa and Norway have an existing portfolio of science and technology partnerships to advance the blue economy. Both are members of the new international “Martera” platform, which will support collaboration in the domain of maritime and marine technologies. The two nations are also members of the EU Horizon 2020 project “Ecopotential”, where South Africa and Norway are leading the work to leverage Earth observation to improve marine ecosystem services to society.  They are also partners in the “Atlantos” project seeking to develop an integrated Atlantic Ocean Observing System.

Several Norwegian key maritime companies are already active in South Africa, like Jotun, DNV-GL and Kongsberg Maritime. The Norwegian fleet is the fourth largest in the world. Norwegian shipping companies such as Wilhelmsen, Høegh, Odfjell and Klaveness are frequent users of South African harbours.

The DST’s Daan du Toit, Deputy Director-General said the SANOCEAN will enhance an already productive relationship between the  two countries.  He said, international cooperation and benchmarking provide important platforms for understanding and promoting the contribution of science and technology to economic development.

He said, South Africa is working on growing the local renewable energy industry and it is an area where I think South Africa and Norway can intensify our cooperation.  With 99% of electricity production in Norway coming from hydropower plants, renewable energy is an area where Norway has important expertise, as evidenced by its role as one of the world’s largest producers of silicon solar cells.