France and South Africa workshop on ICT [fr]
South African and French researchers met at the CSIR Meraka Institute on 30 and 31 October 2014, for a two-day workshop to discuss joint R&D and innovation (RDI) collaboration in information and communication technologies (ICT). The gathering, organized by the French Embassy and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), attracted more than 50 attendees representing research institutions, universities and industry, as well as governments from both countries.
Ms Jeanette Morwane, Director: ICT & Service Industry at the DST, described the workshop as a platform to explore cutting-edge research in the ICT field, and identifying future cooperation domains while linking the countries’ researchers.
The French Science and Technology Attaché, Mr Pierre Lemonde, stressed that South Africa is well positioned to capture the potential offered by French ICT research, until now insufficiently exploited in joint projects. "France hosts 100 000 ICT businesses employing more than 700 000 workers and huge research institutions in ICT. With 20% of the R&D budget devoted to information and communication technologies, this sector offers tremendous partnership opportunities", he said.
A great deal of information was presented regarding the funding of mutual projects through Horizon 2020 (H2020), the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years. The DST has developed a concept for future collaboration with the EU within H2020, identifying Big Data, Smart Living, Trust and Security, and Robotics as four areas for focused South Africa-EU cooperation in ICT RDI.
These key themes were explored in detail during the workshop, through the contribution of speakers from the Meraka Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, researchers from South African universities and the Square Kilometer Array project, companies such as Thalès, Bull, mLab, and research institutions as INRIA, IRD and the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), among others. For each of the priority areas, flagship projects that may lead to an effective collaboration were identified and national clusters or contact points were pinpointed, with a strong emphasis on capacity building and co-tutelle thesis opportunities.
The workshop will be followed by a programme of action developed by both the DST officials and the French Embassy. The collaboration will be guided by the Department’s Ten Year ICT Research, Development and Innovation (ICT RDI) Roadmap whose vision is to achieve digital advantage for South Africa through leveraging advances in ICT to address socio-economic challenges.
The idea of implementing a targeted ICT Research and Development Innovation (ICT RDI) programme on Smart Society between SA and the EU, is expected to contribute to this vision. The proposed programme is aimed at developing key ICT capabilities to establish a smart society driven by advanced technology developments with a key focus on enhancing “smart living, smart government and smart business”.