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A Tangible Legacy: The CAAST-Net Plus Contribution to Research Cooperation on Climate Change

A Tangible Legacy: The CAAST-Net Plus Contribution to Research Cooperation on Climate Change

CAAST-Net Plus has in previous years organised climate change consultations with three of Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs). These events have been carried out with an ambition to capture an overview of existing capabilities, identify gaps, and explore opportunities for collaborative EU-Africa ventures. BY DR ARNE TOSTENSEN

These consultations — held in Accra, Ghana (with ECOWAS), in Lilongwe, Malawi (with SADC), and in Kigali, Rwanda (with EAC) — have yielded valuable results for CAAST-Net Plus in its efforts to build a platform for bi-regional research and innovation related to climate change priorities. The CAAST-Net Plus climate change stakeholder meeting that took place in Bergen, Norway, on 7 and 8 September 2015, was carried out against the background of the three previous workshops. Working closely with the East African Community (EAC), the Bergen convening brought together key stakeholders with three key objectives in mind (see box).

BOX: Goals of the Bergen meeting
To explore the potential for academic-private sector collaboration, exemplified by the embryonic relationship emerging between the East African Business Council (EABC) and the Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA).
To examine opportunities for strengthened cooperation in capacity-building in the area of climate change.
To investigate the prospects for mounting new research funding schemes, modelled, for instance, on ERAfrica, whose experiences and lessons learned were assessed to determine its replicability with an emphasis on research related to climate change issues.

About 25 participants were drawn from Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, representing a mix of active researchers and scientists, business people, administrators and officials of research councils and relevant policy-making ministries, as well as practitioners and representatives of civil society. While climate change is a cross-cutting concern, the discussion sought to explore how innovations might serve the needs of the health and food security sectors and towards that end, participants from those sectors were in attendance. The workshop format was comprised of plenary sessions and break-out groups for deeper discussion.

Read full workshop report

Key Results

By way of introduction Prof. Eystein Jansen of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research gave a keynote presentation about climate change as a global challenge. In the first break-out group on the academia-private sector interface, presentations were made: by representatives of the EABC and the IUCEA; by the existing BASE project addressing energy issues in Europe and East Africa; by the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships covering larger parts of Africa; and by a Tanzanian innovator who has won a prize for his innovation using nanotechnology in water purification.

In the second break-out group, presentations were made by the UK Department for International Development about its CIRCLE programme and by the African Academy of Science as its implementer in Africa.

Similar initiatives were presented on Danida’s Building Stronger Universities programme, on ClimDev under the African Climate Policy Centre, as well as on the Globelics/AfricaLics initiative, based at Aarhus University, Denmark. The discussion dwelled on the needs, challenges, and opportunities for collaboration and synergies between various funding agencies in this field. It sought to explore the possibility for a joint facility or improved separate facilities for strengthening cooperation in capacity-building initiatives in climate change. The potential for mounting a new funding facility à la ERAfrica was also discussed, and the link to Africa-EU STI policy dialogue support, which was highlighted in a presentation made by CAAST-Net Plus.

The deliberations were lively and rich. Experiences and good practices were shared between European and sub-Saharan African stakeholders involved in the financial and technical support of climate change-related academia–industry partnerships.

The discussions centred on how the relationship between EABC and UICEA could be intensified and ultimately lead to innovation, patenting and commercialisation of prototypes, be they tangible commodities or services. In other words, the emphasis was put on facilitating the uptake process, rather than collaborative research per se.

The ambition was to arrive at a platform or a model to be emulated by other African RECs, and to forge synergies between institutions in Europe and their African counterparts. The views of the Tanzanian innovator was particularly enlightening with regard to the opportunities and hurdles encountered during the innovation process, through to the commercialisation of a product in which investors are now showing interest. It has been observed that since climate change is a comparatively new field of study, the capacity to engage in such research is limited, especially in Africa. Hence, extensive capacity-building initiatives are needed.

Overall, the deliberations went some way towards the creation of a platform or a model that is actionable with a view to strengthening links and cooperation between the academic world and that of industry in the area of climate change and its links to health and food security. The other prong of the workshop, related to capacity-building beyond the purview of Horizon 2020, also generated ideas that need to be developed further. A workshop report is in progress. It will provide further details and set out the embryo of a platform for bi-regional research collaboration between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, including initiatives to enhance its effectiveness.

The workshop was hosted by the Chr. Michelsen Institute on behalf of the Research Council of Norway (RCN).

*This article first appeared in the CAAST-Net Plus Magazine of December 2015.

[Image credit: Dr Arne Tostensen]

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Disclaimer: CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n0 311806. This document reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union cannot be held liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement 311806
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