South Africa and the European Commission (EC) have signed a five-year agreement to facilitate collaborative activities in science and technology between South Africa and Europe.


The Director-General of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Dr Phil Mjwara and the Director-General of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), Dr Vladimir Šucha, signed the Memorandum of Understanding in Pretoria today.


The agreement is in line with the Agreement for Scientific and Technological Cooperation signed in 1996 between the European Community and South Africa.


The JRC is the EC’s science and knowledge service that employs scientists to carry out research to provide independent scientific advice and support to European Union (EU) policy and is a key player in supporting successful investment in knowledge and innovation foreseen by the EU Framework Programmes.


Cooperative activities will include among others, best practices on evidence-based policy-making, agriculture and food security, big data, energy, bio-economy, marine sciences and economic growth.


Speaking at the signing, Dr Phil Mjwara welcomed the new cooperation agreement, saying it would involve an exchange of a number of scientists and projects of mutual interest as both the EU and South Africa strengthen the benefits of science, technology and innovation in society.


“Both the EU and South Africa should always be looking at ways of continuing this partnership and this is one way of supporting the training of scientists, engineers and technical experts from both continents,” said Dr Mjwara.


In terms of the agreement, scientists will have comparable access to laboratory facilities to be able to conduct scientific and technological activities including science, development, testing and evaluation; exchange of information such as research results through seminars and workshops, among others.


Dr Šucha also welcomed the signing of the new agreement, saying science had a lot to offer to policy-making. “Today, we are facing very dramatic changes to society and we need to learn from each other how to tackle challenges but we need to develop own solutions for our own problems.”


The signing took place on the sidelines of a two-day strategic partnership dialogue conference organised by South Africa and the EU discussing disruptive technologies and public policy in the age of the fourth industrial revolution.


This discussion is crucial as increased digitisation and automation is quickly changing the world, in many sectors. As the world prepares for this revolution, it will be important to understand, for example, the implications of digitisation on the privacy of citizens and the policy implications of such developments.


The Conference aims to inform the ongoing development of SA-EU strategic partnerships, as well as policy options for responding to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.