Switzerland and South Africa sign ‘milestone’ in scientific cooperation

Downtown Cape Town: Since 1962 around 100 South African researchers and creative artists have enjoyed the benefits of a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship Keystone

The recent signing of an agreement between the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) has been welcomed as an “important milestone” in scientific relations between the two countries.

This content was published on August 28, 2020 - 08:52

The Lead Agency Agreement – the first concluded by the SNSF with a non-European country – facilitates cooperation between researchers in Switzerland and their South African counterparts.

During a video conference on Thursday Guy Parmelin, who heads the Swiss ministry for economics, education and research, and South Africa’s minister for science, Blade Nzimande, hailed the agreement as a key component in the excellent bilateral relations between their two countries.

“Thanks to the direct cooperation between the respective research funding agencies, scientists from Switzerland and South Africa will now be able to submit joint project applications to either of the agencies at any time and in any field,” the Swiss government said in a statement.

The president of the SNSF’s National Research Council, Matthias Egger, who also took part in the video conference along with the director of the South African NRF, Molapo Qhobela, underlined the significance of the agreement. For South Africa, it is the first such agreement the country has ever entered into, and so opens up a new and important phase in bilateral scientific cooperation.

Direct cooperation

A bilateral agreement between Switzerland and South Africa on cooperation in science and technology has existed since 2007, providing a basis for the bilateral research programme launched in 2008. Under this programme, the SNSF and the NRF have already launched several calls for proposals on specialist topics and funded a total of 37 research projects.

Direct cooperation between the two research funding agencies was a major objective of the bilateral programme coordinated by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in conjunction with the University of Basel.

Furthermore, since 1962 around 100 South African researchers and creative artists have enjoyed the benefits of a Swiss Government Excellence Scholarship and spent part of their academic career at a Swiss higher education institution. Between 2004 and 2014 there was a fourfold increase in the number of joint academic publications by Swiss and South African researchers.

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