The Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs, H. E. Didier Burkhalter, and the Minister of Science and Technology of the Republic of South Africa, H. E. Naledi G Pandor, had very fruitful talks in Bern on 20 June 2011 during Minister Pandor?s visit to Switzerland.

Among others, the Federal Councillor and the Minister assessed the development of the Swiss South African Joint Research Programme (hereafter referred to as SSAJRP) and discussed the future bilateral cooperation strategy in the fields of science, technology and innovation.

In relation to the bilateral Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation reached between the Swiss Federal Council and the government of the Republic of South Africa in December 2007 and its corresponding minutes, the Joint Statements signed in March 2007, December 2009 and March 2011, and the minutes of the first and second Joint Committee Meetings held in August 2008 and November 2010, the signatories note that significant progress has been made in advancing the objectives of bilateral cooperation, and are highly satisfied with the positive development and the smooth implementation of the bilateral science and technology cooperation strategy between the two countries.

The acknowledged high quality of projects, researchers and workshops make this bilateral programme visible and important in both countries. The 16 Joint Research Projects (JRPs) in the fields of Public Health and Biomedicine (eight), Bio- and Nanotechnology (four), and Human and Social Sciences (four) are progressing well.

The projects are also delivering significant results in terms of human capital development. At the end of 2010, a total of 48 PhD and post-doc students (2/3 SA and 1/3 CH) were involved in the collaborative activities. Almost 80 young scholars have benefited from over 50 SSAJRP exchange projects that have been approved so far. In addition, the number of publications in peer reviewed journals is steadily growing.

With the appointment of a Science and Technology Counsellor to the Swiss Embassy in Pretoria in April 2010, an important hub has been set up to help promote and expand cooperation between Switzerland and the Republic of South Africa.

Further key achievements under the SSAJRP include successful initiatives to foster academia and industry cooperation, and in particular the launch of Biotechnology Entrepreneurship (BIOe) courses, the subsequent Summer Camps and the Seed Funding Call (leading to the submission of 11 project proposals). In addition promising discussions took place in order to establish in a near future three joint research chairs between Swiss and South African academic institutions.

Besides the significant contribution made by SSAJRP to an overall increase in the number of collaborative activities between Swiss and South African researchers, research institutions and programmes, the signatories greatly encourage direct institutional links and collaborations between their respective higher education and research institutions.

They also strongly support the active participation of both countries in the European Framework programmes. Under the current Seventh Programme, 66 Swiss and South African partners are collaborating on 28 projects (mainly in the fields of environment, food/agriculture/biotech and health). It is intended that further cooperation and projects will be developed and funded through all possible research and development programmes for which both parties are eligible.

The parties have agreed to bring the current phase (2008 to 2011) to a successful conclusion and to cooperate in 2012 with at least the same level of commitment and corresponding resources.

For the next four-year-phase 2013 to 2016, both parties agree that the cooperation should continue at the same level, with the potential for increased resources from a wider network of institutional actors in the Swiss and South African science and technology landscapes.

In addition, the signatories agree on exploring new possible common research fields such as energy, in particular renewable sources of energy, energy security and clean technology. The programme framework for that second phase will be conceptualised at the next Joint Committee Meeting, which will take place in South Africa in the first half of 2012.

Both ministries are strongly committed to extending and actively encouraging cooperation in the fields of science and technology in the years to come. They greatly value such cooperation as an important contribution towards addressing complex research issues and global challenges, not only for the benefit of the people of Switzerland and South Africa, but also for mankind as a whole.

Issued by: Department of Science and Technology