SARIMA provides a platform for the promotion and facilitation of best practice in research and innovation management in Southern Africa and its purpose is to strengthen the research and innovation system to ensure the social and economic development of the Southern African region.
The theme for SARIMA Conference 2017 was “Celebrating 15 years of developing the research and innovation value chain”. Among the participants was the Namibian Minister of Higher Education Training and Innovation, the Honourable Dr Itah Kanjii-Murangi. The conference provided an opportunity for academics, professionals and government officials to share experiences, ideas and strategies that can contribute further to the development of the research and innovation value chain and ‘make things happen’ for the improvement of livelihoods on the African continent.
Dr Eino Mvula, Chief Executive Officer at the National Commission on Research Science and Technology, emphasised the importance of linking research to the development of priority areas and enhancement of global competiveness, as well as consolidating and expanding Centres of Excellence as well as enhancing institutional linkages on the continent. From his point of view, promoting international research and development cooperation based on continental interest and ownership is also central, and collaboration between government, industry and academia is required to deepen commercialisation efforts of innovations. His sentiments were echoed by other speakers, including Prof Tjama Tjivikua, Vice Chancellor Namibia University of Science and Technology.
“Nowadays, collaboration between universities and industry is getting increasingly more important. There is no doubt that sustaining success in innovation, technology, entrepreneurship and establishing industry and academia partnerships are essential and can significantly assist in improving employment possibilities and broaden the career paths of young researchers and post-graduate students,” Dr Owen Nkosinathi Sotshangane from Walter Sisulu University stated, further continuing: “If any country wishes to compete in the global marketplace it must promote and support innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in order to strengthen a positive engagement by industry-university partnerships.”
While collaboration is increasingly required and holds great benefits and potential, it does not come without challenges. According to many speakers, communication between stakeholders is key, and care should be taken in contracting. Mr Misheck Banda from the Mzuzu University in Malawi remarked on past experiences from collaboration between local parties and large international companies: “From an IP perspective, African researchers need to be on the lookout when it comes to collaborative research with researchers from outside the continent. Intellectual property issues, such as innovations/patents arising from such collaborations need to be clearly spelled out in research contracts and collaboration agreements. There is need to ensure that the communities involved during such research collaborations are adequately protected.”
Mr Olebile Bolobilwe from the University of Botswana urged institutions to keep an open mind in terms of collaboration, as in our interlinked world more can be achieved together as long as proper care is taken: “Institutions should be alive to the changing dynamics and prepare to manage risk and maximize benefits in collaborations. Building effective and efficient research management structures to support collaborations is a journey worth taking. Collaborations should also not end with projects – but be used to build sustainability into outcomes and outputs.”
During the conference, SANBio Network Manager Dr Ereck Chakauya facilitated a workshop on The Role of Non-Traditional Funding Partners’ in Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture. The aim of the workshop was to interrogate the type of tools and conditions required to attract private sector funding of research and development or innovation spin-offs within the food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture space. The workshop was be hosted as part of the South African Department of Science and Technology’s participation in the Africa-Europe Partnership on Research and Innovation. One of the key objectives of this Partnership is to foster inter-continental partnerships that address societal challenges through multi-sectoral networks (research, private sector, government, end-users, farmers etc).
The NEPAD STISA 2024 Science Granting Council Initiative workshop was also incorporated with the SARIMA Conference, which provided participants with an opportunity to listen to presentations from the regional NEPAD Agency and regional science councils.
The objective of the workshop was to help member states understand possible ways of assessing the performance of R&D and innovation eco-systems; collect and store disaggregated data sets on Research & Development and Innovation relevant to national STI policies and strategies; describe and process datasets on R&D and innovation at the institutional level and develop data analysis products; and the use of the tools for increased R&D investment by national governments.
NEPAD SANBio took part in the conference exhibition alongside organisations such as the Human Science Research Council (HSRC), Research Professional Africa, National Commission on Research Science and Technology, Elsevier, Clarivate analytics, and StoRM Initiative.