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Today, representatives of the European Union and European Research Council (ERC) President Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon met with African research and innovation stakeholders at the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in Nairobi, Kenya, to promote EU-African research cooperation under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. The meeting, at which Professor Bourguignon also convened bilaterally with The AAS President Professor Felix Dapare Dakora, sets the stage for new EU-African partnerships in research and innovation, aligning with The AAS’s strategic vision of ‘transforming lives through science.’
The President of the ERC, Professor Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, said:
‘I’m very pleased to be back in Africa, this time in Nairobi for this important event, hosted by the African Academy of Sciences. I am impressed by the drive of African scientists, not least the new generation of talent, who I have had the privilege of meeting during my visits to this continent over the past years, in particular at the “Next Einstein Forum”. With the global dimension being part of the European Research Council’s ethos since its launch, it remains essential for us to engage with bright minds worldwide to forge closer ties and encourage scientific exchange. Top researchers from anywhere on the globe can apply for ERC grants in Europe while being able to keep ties with their home institution. The ERC is open to the world!’
Set up by the EU in 2007, the European Research Council is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds the very best researchers of any nationality and age, at different career stages, to run projects based in Europe. Research teams led by ERC-grantees frequently host non-European scientists and team members can be based outside Europe. Under one of the ERC funding schemes, the Synergy Grants, grantees can even perform their top research outside Europe. The ERC is part of the Horizon 2020 programme and accounts for nearly one fifth of the programme’s €80 billion budget.
Professor Bourguignon’s presence at today’s event marks the last leg of his visit to Kenya, where he has attended the Next Einstein Forum Steering Committee meeting in Nairobi; a platform connecting science, society and policy in Africa.
Horizon 2020 in Africa
In addition to ERC Grants, Horizon 2020 offers a multitude of further opportunities for international and African researcher participation, which were presented to the more than 50 researchers in attendance at the event in Nairobi. Already, 310 projects involving researchers from African Union countries have been funded with a total of €123 million under the programme. With 47 projects funded, Kenya is the third-most successful African country under Horizon 2020 after South Africa (126 projects funded) and Morocco (50 projects funded). The main thematic areas of EU-African cooperation under Horizon 2020 are environment, food, ICT and health.
Today’s event in Nairobi is part of a concerted effort by the European Union and the African Academy of Sciences, to step up research and innovation cooperation between the EU and its African partners. Stefano A. Dejak, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Kenya, emphasised this, saying:
‘Science and technology are key components of the Africa-EU partnership. The aim is to contribute to sustainable development and boosting employment, competitiveness and growth. With Kenya widely known as a regional tech and innovation hub, the EU Delegation to Kenya is already actively working with our Kenyan partners in making this a reality. I welcome today's training day on Horizon 2020 funding opportunities for cooperation between Africa and Europe taking place in Nairobi. I am confident that it will allow us to intensify cooperation in the fields of research, science and technology in the coming years.’
The African Academy of Sciences: forging partnerships on the African continent and across the globe
Furthermore, the AAS President Professor Dakora used the event as an opportunity to highlight the African Academy of Sciences’ unique role as a pan-African scientific organisation promoting international research partnerships and the development of a robust research ecosystem in Africa. As a non-aligned, pan-African and Africa-led organisation, the Academy is perfectly positioned to forge strategic science partnerships on the African continent and globally.