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Science-for-development seminar to explore options for AU-EU Africa Summit


26 Sep 2017


Development Policy
Global Europe

Brussels, 26 September 2017 – ISC is organising its second seminar themed around Science for Development, with a focus on digitisation. The seminar will examine key policy options for science capacity building in Africa, in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and consider ways that data and knowledge can be shared between Europe and Africa. It takes place in Brussels on 27 September 2017 and is hosted by the Irish Permanent Representation to the EU.

This year’s seminar builds on the 2016 ISC science-for-development seminar, which helped to advance the agenda for Europe-Africa cooperation, especially in the science field. The 2017 seminar – which again looks at science and innovation in the context of development – comes two months ahead of the AU-EU Summit in Ivory Coast. The summit’s theme is ‘youth’, a shared priority for both continents.

ISC’s seminar on 27 September 2017 will assess policy options for building up science capacity in Africa, with a view to addressing the global challenges set out in the UN SDGs. Debate will centre round ways to promote an enabling policy and regulatory environment which can facilitate the sharing of data and knowledge between key users in Europe and Africa.

Much of the seminar will be devoted to recent innovations in both continents, in both space and Big Data. Participants will discover just how these innovations can play complementary roles in addressing some of the challenges of the UN SDGs – including economic growth and societal transformation leading to more and better jobs.

The seminar will feature presentations of relevant research infrastructure and examples of capacity building to achieve the SDGs, covering several major Europe-Africa initiatives and shared issues. Among them are the African Data Intensive Research Cloud (ADIRC), which is led by South Africa; a debate led by University College Dublin on pressing common challenges and how innovation can support agriculture and food security; and the Irish contributions to international projects, such as LOFAR (Low-Frequency Array) radio telescope and the Square Kilometre Array.


Seminar date and venue:

Wednesday, 27 September 2017, 15.00 – 18.30 followed by reception

50 Rue Froissart, Brussels B-1040


Participation in the seminar is free of charge. Registration is available here.


Editor’s note:

The 2017 Africa-EU summit will be held in Ivory Coast from 29 to 30 November 2017. Its theme is ‘youth’, a shared priority for both Africa and Europe, especially in terms of migration, unemployment among young people, and the threat of radicalisation. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are highly relevant, as more than 90% of young people live in developing countries. New technologies such as ICT, renewable energies and biotechnology are expected to play a major role in implementing the SDGs. These technologies can also promote the economic growth and transformation needed for more and better jobs in developing countries.

Science and innovation can play a vital role in development, provided there is more involvement of academia, enterprises and civil society. Hence the need to build more partnerships between scientists from developed and developing countries, with the goal of tackling local challenges and opportunities while calling on global sources of innovation, data and best practice.

One notable initiative in this area is the new European Consensus on Development, endorsed by the European Parliament in May 2017. This sets out the EU’s roadmap for attaining the SDGs, especially poverty eradication, for example through use of ICT in development policy. In May 2017, the Joint Communication for a renewed impetus of the Africa-EU Partnership also highlighted the importance of supporting core enabling infrastructures – such as ICT – and Africa’s digital agenda. Lastly, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 notes the need to strengthen Africa-EU collaboration on research, with support especially for an open digital research environment for universities and research bodies in Africa.

ISC and its key partners have been very pro-active in promoting this agenda, including through the first ‘ISC science-for-development seminar’ in September 2016, hosted by the Irish mission to the UN during a United Nations General Assembly. Outcomes of that seminar included participation of the African Union Commission in the EU’s biobanking research infrastructure (BBMRI-ERIC).

This second ISC science-for-development seminar, to be held in Brussels on 27 September 2017, will examine key policy options to support science capacity building in Africa, in order to address the global challenges identified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The seminar will also consider ways that data and knowledge can be shared between users in Europe and Africa.

Seminar presentations will focus on how recent innovations in space and Big Data in Europe and Africa can play complementary roles in addressing the SDG challenges. Specific examples include harnessing the Europe-based LOFAR project and related cooperation with Africa, such as the Square Kilometer Array.

In 2016, the Irish government, through Science Foundation Ireland, committed €1.4 million to the development in Birr Castle of an Irish node of the LOFAR (Low-Frequency Array) radio telescope. The Irish Lofar Consortium brings together universities and institutes of technology led by Dr Peter Gallagher of Trinity College Dublin. Opened in July 2017, the new node links Ireland to the International LOFAR Telescope – one of the world’s most sophisticated astrophysics research projects.

A similar initiative, the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a European Strategy Forum Research Infrastructure project, is under construction in Africa and in Western Australia. The sites will host different but complementary telescopes. Together they aim to resolve big science questions, ranging from the origins of the early universe to modern challenges such as improving agricultural productivity. The SKA, as the largest radio astronomical observatory in the world, calls on the advanced software and data-intensive infrastructures developed by the LOFAR project.

ISC’s latest seminar will also consider agriculture and food security, and how Africa and Europe can cooperate. Research and innovation are pivotal to achieving the goals of Africa’s transformative agenda. Food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture (FNSSA) was identified as the first priority by the EU-Africa High Level Policy Dialogue (HLPD) on Science, Technology and Innovation.

It is envisaged that the recommendations from this second ISC science-for-development seminar will feed into a broad range of discussions at the Fifth AU-EU Summit in November 2017. 

The ISC seminar will feature experts from several key African and European institutions, among them the European Commission, the African Union, and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). Other participants include development and research and innovation staff from the Permanent Representatives of the EU Member States, as well as from African embassies, plus MEPs, and other science and development stakeholders from civil society NGOs, academia and industry.

Participants will include: Peter Gallagher from Trinity College Dublin and leader of Science Foundation Ireland-funded LOFAR project; Vinny Pillay from Embassy of the Republic of South Africa to Belgium; Jonathan Van Meerbeeck from Pan-African Programme, DG DEVCO, European Commission; Jean-Claude Burgleman from DG RTD, European Commission; Dr John Fred Kakule from Africa Caribbean Pacific Group of States; Tríona McCormack from University College Dublin Research and Innovation Department; Brian Quinn from Intel Ireland; and Brian Hayes MEP.


For more information, please contact:


Declan Kirrane, ISC Intelligence in Science

Email:, tel: + 32 494 34 60 40


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