There is huge scope for stronger cooperation in science, technology and innovation between the countries of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping, says Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom.
Hanekom was speaking on Monday at the opening of the first BRICS Science, Technology and Innovation Ministerial Meeting in Kleinmond, about 90km southeast of Cape Town.
“The BRICS countries are recognised as the future growth engines of the world economy,” he said. “It is clear that this kind of expansion will necessarily need to be accompanied by enhanced levels of technological integration into the global community and, without a doubt, will create huge opportunities for science, technology and innovation as critical growth and development drivers of the future.”
Hanekom identified biotechnology and health innovations, space science and technology, and new and renewable energy as “strategic areas where South Africa sees potential not only for synergies, but real opportunities for extensive cooperation” between the BRICS countries.
The two-day meeting, which brings together science ministers or deputy ministers from the five countries, was one of the activities agreed to in the declaration and work plan adopted at the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban in March 2013.
Hanekom said the meeting represented the culmination of the process of operationalizing the working mechanisms of the grouping.
The BRICS ministers were expected to table a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening cooperation in science, technology and innovation and addressing common global and regional socioeconomic challenges through appropriate funding and investment instruments.
To achieve this goal, Hanekom said the five countries would use shared experiences and complementarities, the co-generation of new knowledge and innovative products, services and processes.
On Tuesday, the BRICS ministers were expected to visit the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) site in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape, where the MeerKAT radio telescope is being constructed.
The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, which is to be co-hosted by South Africa and Australia. The 64-dish MeerKAT radio telescope is due to come online in 2016 both as a precursor to the SKA and as one of the most powerful telescopes in the world in its own right