SANBio welcomes new team members

The SANBio-BioFISA 2 Programme Technical Assistance team: From left: Mr Markku-Eemeli Pekonen (Junior Expert) and Mrs Marja-Reetta Paaso (Chief Technical Advisor)

With the commencement of the SANBio-BioFISA 2 Programme, the Southern Africa Network for Biosciences Secretariat has welcomed two new team members, Mrs Marja-Reetta Paaso and Mr Markku-Eemeli Pekonen.

Marja-Reetta Paaso joins the network as Chief Technical Advisor (CTA) for the BioFISA Phase 2 Programme, whereas Markku-Eemeli Pekonen takes on the role of Junior Expert.

Building on the successes of the BioFISA Phase I Programme through which the Government of Finland and the Government of South Africa jointly supported SANBio between 2009 – 2012, the second phase of the support programme aims to further strengthen SANBio through  effective and dynamic regional research projects, enhance human and infrastructure capacity, and develop and commercialise innovative products in health and nutrition. The focus for BioFISA Phase II is to extend network activities to be sustainable beyond 2019.

Marja-Reetta’s role as the CTA is to advise on  networking, capacity building, the selection and support of projects, activities and related entities. Marja-Reetta holds an MSc in Economics, and has extensive experience in the field of business development of high-tech start-ups, many of them science-based spin-offs from universities and research institutes. She has lived abroad for 12 years in six different countries, including developing countries and emerging markets (Austria, China, Germany, Mozambique, Singapore and the Unites States). Her most recent work experience in Africa is from Mozambique, where she worked at the Ministry of Science and Technology of Mozambique as the Chief Technical Advisor of a multilateral Science Technology Innovation development programme.

Markku-Eemeli recently received his Master’s Degree in International Business and Management from the AACSB accredited Oulu Business School and also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Business Communication. He has initially been tasked with reinforcing and expanding the communication efforts of SANBio. During the past couple of years he has worked in different roles in the field of internationalization consulting in Finland and India. His areas of expertise and prior experiences cover areas such as intercultural and technical communication, strategic knowledge acquisition especially in the context of clean technologies, as well as market and opportunity analysis in developing countries.

Marja-Reetta and Markku-Eemeli are both looking forward to getting to know the people involved in and contributing to the SANBio network and being part of the network’s development efforts, as well as doing their very best to ensure the success of the network.

“Outside of work I really look forward to what South Africa and the other countries in the region have to offer to a wide-eyed newcomer. Food, sights, nature—“ Markku-Eemeli says. “—and it’s not a bad thing to be able to escape the Finnish winter for a few years. You get tired of experiencing temperatures that regularly reach below -20 degrees Celscius,” Marja-Reetta adds.