Milestone in scientific cooperation between Switzerland and South Africa

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In a video conference on 27 August, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin and South Africa’s minister for science, Blade Nzimande, welcomed the recent signing of the Lead Agency Agreement between the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the South African National Research Foundation (NRF) as an important milestone in scientific relations between the two countries. The agreement facilitates cooperation between researchers in Switzerland and their South African counterparts. It is the first agreement concluded by the SNSF with a non-European country.

During the video conference, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, and Blade Nzimande, South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, hailed the Lead Agency 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 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, which is the first of its kind concluded with a country outside Europe. 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.

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, which is the leading house for sub-Saharan Africa. The programme, which is run on behalf of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, regularly develops instruments for Swiss researchers interested in cooperating with partners from these regions in Africa.

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. And between 2004 and 2014 there was a four-fold increase in the number of joint academic publications by Swiss and South African researchers.

Mauro Moruzzi, Ambassador
Head of International Relations
State Secretariat for Education, Research and info@gs-wbf.admin.ch