Brussels, 9 February 2015: Ms Naledi Mandisa Pandor, the South African Minister of Science and Technology, visited Portugal in the month of December 2014 to discuss the plans and opportunities for strengthening the collaboration between the Republic of South Africa and Portugal in the area of science, technology and innovation.
Reflecting on the Minister’s visit, José Caldeira, President of the National Innovation Agency (ANI) in Portugal, stated that “Naledi Pandor expressed interest in strengthening partnership ties in science, technology and innovation with Portugal, promoting Portugal's and South Africa’s cooperation in the Africa-Europe platforms.” During the meeting, Big Data, Energy and Advanced Formation of Human Resources with enhancement of innovation were pinpointed as areas where Portugal and South Africa have common interests to promote science and welfare, confirmed Mr Caldeira.
As further explained by President Caldeira, of particular importance is the fact that “Naledi Pandor addressed the potential of the African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) network and the participation of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in the promotion of Europe-Africa partnerships.” Caldeira also claimed that the meetings with the Portuguese National Innovation Agency and the Trade and Investment Agency (AICEP) agreed on the exchange of information and a roll-out of planned joint activities.
“For ANI, this meeting’s timing and content was very interesting, since it covered several of the objectives defined for its new mandate, namely a stronger interaction between academia and industry and between research and innovation; promoting the implementation of larger value chains, and, last but not least, an opportunity for internationalisation and global cooperation in research and innovation,” concluded José Caldeira, from ANI.
As emphasised by Miguel Seabra, President of the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), “Portugal and South Africa have been partners in scientific cooperation for several fruitful years, and so for FCT, the national funding agency for research, it was an honour to take part in Minister Naledi Pandor's visit to Portugal in December.” He further explained that Minister Pandor’s visit provided an opportunity to “discuss ongoing and future collaborations, with a view to strengthening the ties between the two countries and fostering the roles of both as gateways into Europe and Africa.”
President Seabra also discussed the SKA project based in Southern Africa, which according to him, “will have a tremendous impact on space research” and which, most importantly, “Portugal is expected to join soon.”
The Portuguese infrastructure “ENGAGE-SKA”, explained President Seabra, which was “recently included in the new Portuguese roadmap of research infrastructures, is already involved in the SKA… to reinforce bilateral cooperation and extend it to other areas of common strategic and scientific interest, the FCT will work together with South African funding agencies to design joint funding of research projects.”
According to AICEP, Portuguese Business Development Agency, Portugal and South Africa are close partners with a world of potential to be fulfilled. Bilateral trade between the two countries in 2013 was around 270 million Euros, out of which 160 million from Portugal to South Africa and close to 110 million Euros from South Africa to Portugal. It is fair enough to say that Portugal and South Africa have a very large room for improvement in order to increase their economic relationship.
This potential can be developed in sectors such as ICT and Energy. Investments in these sectors enable the creation of programs for widespread economical exploration in the vast sea of the information society and the associated Research Infrastructures, transforming them into economic value.
ENGAGE SKA is part of the Portuguese National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures. It congregates universities and industry participating in the SKA Consortia, bringing the Green ICT concepts to radio astronomy. It is endorsed by the Portuguese government as a major radio astronomy plan and is led by the Institute of Telecommunications, the Universities of Aveiro, Porto, Evora, and the Polytechnic Institute of Beja.
ENGAGE SKA is a major stepping stone towards the Portuguese membership of the SKA, which will foster further cooperation between the European and African scientists and researchers, contributing to sustainable development with high socio-economic impact.
Domingos Barbosa from the Institute of Telecommunications in Portugal highlighted the importance of the initiative by stating that the “ENGAGE SKA is a team platform Enabling Green E-science for the SKA, which will promote an excellent science capacitation and sustainability of Portuguese participation in the SKA, taking radio astronomy as an Innovation Open Living Lab.”
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The African-European Radio Astronomy Platform (AERAP)
AERAP is a response to the calls of the European Parliament, through the adoption of the Written Declaration 45/2011, and of the Heads of State of the African Union, through their decision “Assembly/AU/Dec.407 CXVIII”, for radio astronomy to be a priority focus area for Africa-EU cooperation. AERAP is a stakeholder forum of industry, academia and the public sector established to define and implement priorities for radio astronomy cooperation between Africa and Europe.
The overall goals of the platform are to leverage radio astronomy, advance scientific discovery, improve knowledge transfer and stimulate competitiveness across both continents. The platform also enables effective dialogue to build a shared vision for international cooperation in radio astronomy.
Further information on AERAP: www.aerap.org
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)
SKA is a global science and engineering project led by the SKA Organisation, a not-for-profit company with its headquarters at Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester, UK. The SKA will address fundamental unanswered questions about our Universe including how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang, how galaxies have evolved since then, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.
Thousands of linked radio wave receptors will be located in Southern Africa and Australia. Combining the signals from the antennas in each region will create a telescope with a collecting area equivalent to a dish with an area of about one square kilometre.
Organisations from eleven countries are currently members of the SKA Organisation – Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. More countries have expressed their interest in joining the SKA Organisation, which will continue to expand over the coming years.
Further information: www.skatelescope.org
The ENGAGE SKA proposal sets up a capacitation and sustainability plan for a Green e-Science Infrastructure fostering Portugal’s participation in the ESFRI SKA project along the Big Data and Green Power lines, which will act as a driver for smart and sustainable growth along some of the less developed regions of Portugal, taking radio astronomy as an Innovation Open Living Lab.
ENGAGE-SKA aims to promote and capacitate national research on front-line scientific and technological problems faced by the academic and industrial community via the use and development of both current radio-astronomy infrastructures and prototypes like the Aperture Arrays (AA). The scientific issues tackled throughout this proposal are of two orders: engineering-oriented research and radio astronomy & astrophysics oriented research.
Further information: http://engageska-portugal.pt/
Coordination is provided by ISC Intelligence in Science as one of the initiators of AERAP, together with the South African Mission to the EU.
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