The AU-EU High Level Policy Dialogue (HLPD) on Science, Technology and Innovation hosts a Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) every two years to discuss issues related to the bi-regional partnership. The SOM is usually accompanied by a Stakeholder Event for hearing the views of the wider community. This time the events were organized in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 6-8 November 2019. UniPID participated in the Stakeholder Event through the LEAP4FNSSA project, and in the SOM as a part of the Finnish delegation together with the Ministry of Education and Culture.
The HLPD Stakeholder Event was co-chaired by Dr. Mahama Ouedraogo from the African Union Commission and Fadila Boughanemi from the European Commission. In their opening speeches, the co-chairs emphasized the long history of the Partnership, dating back to the adoption of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy in 2007. Dr. Ouedraogo welcomed participants and underlined the value of the Stakeholder Forum as a forum for collaboration: “Together we can succeed.” Boughanemi reminded participants of the important role of science, technology, and innovation for sustainable development and reaching the SDGs. She also pointed out that the event takes place at a crucial time, as the EC is currently developing the Horizon Europe funding instrument, and the discussions at the event will influence that process. Horizon Europe will be the ninth consecutive EU framework programme for funding research and innovation, succeeding the current Horizon 2020. It will be launched in 2021 and run for 7 years, with a budget of as much as €100 billion.
The event continued with presentations and discussion around the current status of the HLPD’s two priorities: food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture (FNSSA), and climate change and sustainable energy (CCSE). Laila Lokosang from the AUC and Dr. Hans-Jörg Lutzeyer from the EC presented the FNSSA Partnership, emphasizing that progress in that area is crucial for achieving SDG2: Zero hunger. Lokosang also stated that “Research and innovation is a centerpiece of driving international collaboration,” recognizing the central role of the investments into FNSSA research made by AU and EU in recent years.
As for the LEAP4FNSSA project, Dr. Andrew Cherry from the Association of Commonwealth Universities presented the project’s progress on the monitoring and evaluation of the FNSSA Partnership. LEAP4FNSSA partners, including UniPID, have recently been gathering data on the current status of the various ongoing projects funded under the Partnership. For this purpose, project coordinators were interviewed and asked about their projects’ successes, challenges, and lessons learned; planned impact pathways; connections to the SDGs; and perceptions of the Partnership. Some key outcomes of the interviews were that: (i) nearly all projects felt a strong connection to the SDGs, particularly SDG2: Zero hunger; (ii) the impact pathways varied between projects, some were able to offer assurance of short-term impact in their pilot sites, but none were able to guarantee long-term impact; (iii) impact beyond the project lifetime is often dependent on issues such as stakeholder engagement, national policy support, and continued funding; and (iv) few coordinators had a good understanding of the bi-regional FNSSA Partnership, but many saw a lot of value in EU-Africa partnership in general and in the context of their projects. These outcomes feed into the further development of the Partnership and may, to some extent, be useful for AU-EU collaboration in general.
Before lunch, the programme also included presentations on the various AU/EU funding opportunities such as the African Union Research Grants, the currently open H2020 CCSE call, and the forthcoming Horizon Europe instrument. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, which grant researchers from all countries and disciplines support for international, intersectoral, and interdisciplinary mobility as well as academia-industry collaboration, were also presented.
During lunch there was a poster session presenting collaborative projects and their achievements. One of these projects was PRE-LEAP-RE, a recently closed project related to renewable energy, in which UniPID also participated.
In the afternoon, the event continued with parallel workshops on FNSSA, CCSE, and the foreseen third HLPD priority, innovation. The FNSSA workshop was hosted by the EC, with support from the LEAP4FNSSA project, and had a special focus on clustering. The LEAP4FNSSA clustering work is aiming to overcome the long-standing challenge of fragmentation of efforts in the field. Dr. Ioannis Dimitriou and Dr. Shadrack Moephuli presented the database the project has been developing, which will allow users to find current and past FNSSA projects to collaborate, learn about their outcomes, and avoid duplication of efforts. The participants suggested features to be added to the database, and raised the importance of linking actors together both when it comes to connecting researchers with end-users, and producers to consumers.
The workshop on CCSE focused on the current and future activities in support of the CCSE Roadmap, a document developed by experts guiding the CCSE Partnership’s activities. There was lively discussion on the existing research and entrepreneurial activities, such as PRE-LEAP-RE, and needs and potential for future cooperation.
In their closing remarks, the co-chairs of the Stakeholder Event re-emphasized the importance of collaboration and inclusion of actors from different fields and organizations in the bi-regional partnership. They reminded the participants that the partnership belongs to everyone, and all are responsible for it: “The partnership is yours. Hopefully all of us are able to address its challenges together.”
Photo credits: Helmi Jyrkkänen