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A new horizon for African-European research links

According to an article published on SciDev.Net, for scientists across Europe, last month marked the official start of a fresh wave of funding opportunities from the European Union (EU). On 11 December, the European Commission finally released the detailed topics and budgets available for the first two years of Horizon 2020, the EU’s eighth research and innovation funding package, worth nearly €80 billion (around US$110 billion) in total from 2014 to 2020.


Image courtesy of xedos4 /

And European researchers are not the only ones who can get a slice from this funding pie: scientists around the world, including those in developing countries, can compete to take part in EU-funded research projects.

The previous edition of the programme, the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) that ended on 31 December 2013 (though some awarded projects are still ongoing), was also open to such international collaboration, and many African scientists seized the opportunity. At the last count in September 2013, the European Commission said that 1,315 participants from organisations in 45 African countries had taken part in 565 EU-funded projects since FP7 began in 2007.

Although areas such as energy, space research and information and communications technology (ICT) are gaining importance, the bulk of these projects remained focused on  health, food and agriculture, and water and environmental sciences.

“This was only partly due to the EU setting [these] priority areas, in particular through a special Africa call in 2010,” says Stéphane Hogan, science counsellor at the Delegation of the EU to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Many other African collaborations in FP7 projects emerged spontaneously, without a specific request from the EU.

African participants have received a combined €178 million from FP7, a substantial rise compared with the previous edition. Under FP6, which ran from 2002 to 2006, only 882 participants took part in 322 research projects and received a combined €95 million from the EU.

Out of the €178 million under FP7, almost €9 million went to fellowships for African researchers, while the rest went to large, collaborative projects where African participants were part of a consortium along with other scientists in Europe (and possibly beyond).

But FP7’s most valuable benefits for African science cannot be expressed in numbers. “African researchers benefit not only from significant funding but also from collaborating with some of the best European researchers,” Hogan says.

For example, Lateef Sanni and Wahabi Asiru are two food researchers from Nigeria. Along with other partners in their own country, as well as scientists from Ghana, the Netherlands, Portugal, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam, they are involved in a large project that aimed to reduce cassava and yam losses by improving their management after harvest. The Gratitude project received about €2.85 million from the EU over three years.

Sanni is a food technologist at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, and his colleague Asiru works at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, in Lagos. Both say that participating in the project broadened their scientific horizons, boosted their skills and enhanced the quality of their work.

“[The project] improved my knowledge as a researcher through workshops, conferences and training, and it encouraged cultural integration,” Asiru says. Thanks to the project, his lab acquired modern equipment that enabled agricultural waste products such as cassava peel and stalks to be used as an alternative substrate for mushroom production, he adds.

Read more on SciDev.Net

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EuropeLogo eInfastructure This project has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 313203
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