South Africa, Switzerland Renew Agreement to Bolster STI

The Department of Science and Innovation of South Africa reported that the country is set to bolster its collaboration in science, technology and innovation (STI) with Switzerland following the renewal of a fruitful STI cooperation agreement between both countries.

The agreement signed and renewed during the 5th meeting of the South Africa-Switzerland Joint Committee, in Bern last week, will see exchange visits of scientists, researchers and scholars, the sharing of scientific and technical knowledge, and the hosting of bilateral STI seminars and courses by the two countries.

The South African-Switzerland Joint Committee is an intergovernmental structure created after the bilateral agreement on scientific and technological cooperation first signed in 2007. Its purpose is to make decisions and evaluate progress in joint work on STI.

For over a decade, South Africa and Switzerland have had a fruitful relationship in STI and have engaged and completed some joint research projects, collaborated on the Swiss-South Africa Business Development Programme, and established two bilateral research chairs. South African and Swiss universities also have long-standing student exchange programmes in place.

Switzerland backs South Africa’s objective of establishing a unified and inclusive national system of innovation to advance economic growth and employment, create livelihoods at the grassroots level, and strengthen competitiveness, the department reported.

Last week, a South African multi-stakeholder delegation which included officials from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and its entities, as well as representatives from universities and start-up companies, toured Switzerland to study and understand the Swiss innovation ecosystem and identify new areas of potential collaboration.
They also visited universities of applied sciences in Bern, Lucerne and Zurich that conduct fundamental research in STI fields, and offer technical training and traditional university degrees.

Last year, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts signed a memorandum of understanding with Stellenbosch University for the exchange of master’s students working in the field of energy. It has also undertaken to collaborate with the University of Venda on a summer school focusing on energy-harvesting facade systems under the leadership of the DSI.

The delegates also participated in several information-sharing engagements on innovation and entrepreneurship and learned how linkages are formed between companies and academic institutions, with the former providing input on curriculum development to promote the nurturing of skills relevant to the industry.

They also visited Basel-Stadt, a dynamic economic region with an enabling environment for entrepreneurship. Basel-Stadt has a population totalling about 200 000, and over 10 000 start-up companies, focused on growing the economy and creating new knowledge for societal growth.

South Africa strives to build an ecosystem that harnesses science, technology and innovation for sustainable development as well as inclusive growth and a better life for all South Africans. According to members of the delegation, the exposure gained from the visit will help to advance these.