UK-SA Newton Fund Task Force celebrates success and takes strategic approach to future programme planning.
On 15 and 16 March 2016, the United Kingdom-South African Newton Fund Task Force and the Newton Fund delivery partners held a meeting in Pretoria to review current programmes. The widely recognised success of the UK-SA Newton Fund is attributed to the true partnership between the two governments.
The meeting considered possible future collaborative activities following an announcement by the UK that the Newton Fund partnership would be extended to 2021 a development welcomed by the South African Department of Science and Technology in view of the fruitful progress made in the three themes under the partnership, People, Research and Translation.
The UK-SA Newton Fund, launched through the signing of a memorandum of understanding in September 2014, builds on a bilateral agreement on science and technology cooperation signed by South Africa and the United Kingdom in 1995. The Newton Fund partnership brings together contributions from both countries to support science, technology and innovation, drawing additional funding from the private sector and science councils, creating a catalyst to stimulate research and development more widely across sub-Saharan Africa.
Activities under the programme focus on research calls, fellowships, workshops, research chairs, and mobility schemes. The establishment of three bilateral research chairs in the areas of energy, water and food security are one of the positive developments under the partnership.
Recognising the good progress made to date, all those attending the meeting identified opportunities for deepening the partnership and increasing its future impact. These include communicating more effectively about the Fund and its impact, and extending the partnership to include additional research institutions, universities and thematic areas important to both countries.
The meeting recognised the importance of taking a strategic approach to planning the next phase of the programme, incorporating multidisciplinary work and larger-scale interventions. In an effort to widen the scope and reach of the partnership, the Department of Science and Technology invited other institutions and government departments to attend the meeting, including the Departments of Health, Higher Education and Training, and Basic Education. There was wide interest in joining the partnership, and the benefits of engaging in more regional activity were generally appreciated.
Both sides welcomed the deepening of the cooperation and undertook to work even more closely to strengthen the partnership, boost awareness about it, and broaden its reach and impact. In this regard, the meeting noted the positive efforts to include Kenya in the partnership, which already includes Egypt in its regional focus.
In order to capitalise on the opportunities presented in the meeting, both parties agreed to:
- create a dedicated UK-SA Newton Fund website to serve as a one-stop-shop showcasing the wide range of cooperative activities and achievements;
- collate information about results and evaluate the progress made in the first two years;
- develop a forward-looking joint programme of work by the end of May to allow effective planning, identifying opportunities for multidisciplinary approaches and including input from other government departments;
- engage more broadly with additional institutions and the rest of the region;
- facilitate regular delivery partner meetings beyond the annual task force meeting;
- enable delivery partners to explore the formation of a Secretariat.