Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 2 - CAAST-NET PLUS (Advancing SSA-EU cooperation in research and innovation for global challenges)

Project Context and Objectives:
In 2007, heads of state and government from Africa and Europe launched the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) formulated in response to geopolitical changes, globalisation and the processes of integration in Africa and Europe. At the heart of the JAES is an overtly political relationship and among the features distinguishing JAES from previous Africa-Europe policy initiatives is the associated action plan addressing priority areas for Africa-Europe cooperation. The contribution of scientific and technological research, development and innovation, and the centrality of capacity for research to economic and social growth and poverty alleviation, and for addressing global societal challenges of mutual interest is embedded in JAES. The value of cooperation between the continents is central and under JAES has already led to significant achievements for mutual benefit. CAAST-Net Plus objectives encourage more and better bi-regional STI cooperation for enhanced outcomes around topics of mutual interest, and particularly in relation to the global societal challenges of climate change, food security and health.
CAAST-Net Plus actions rely on bi-regional dialogue among stakeholders for gathering informed opinion and experience about the bi-regional cooperation process, formulating and disseminating it in such a way as to be admissible to the formal bi-regional STI policy dialogue process and to programme owners. Through informing the bi-regional policy dialogue for mutual learning and awareness, through building support for coordinated and innovative approaches to bilateral funding of bi-regional cooperation around global challenges, brokering the public-private relationship to foster improved uptake and translation of bi-regional research partnership outputs into innovative technologies, good and services, and through dedicated mechanisms to encourage bi-regional research partnerships, CAAST-Net Plus will contribute to the quality and scope of the Africa-Europe STI relationship for mutual benefit.
The goal of CAAST-Net Plus is a reinforced bi-regional STI relationship for jointly tackling global societal challenges and contributing to smart, inclusive and sustainable growth of both regions. Addressing this goal CAAST-Net Plus has a series of six core objectives:
1. Focus on societal challenges: Encourage multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral and bi-regional STI partnerships on key topics of mutual interest and benefit, focussing on major societal challenges.
2. Coordination of policies and programmes: Explore collaborative and novel programming options and funding mechanisms for bi-regional partnerships around global challenges, promoting improved coherence and reduced fragmentation between relevant EU, AU and MS policies and programmes.
3. Bridging the public-private sector gap: Foster greater public-private sector cooperation through enhancing mutual understanding to promote better exploitation of R&D outputs for innovation.
4. Improving framework conditions: Identify and propose innovative solutions to reduce or overcome restrictive cooperation conditions, constraints or barriers.
5. Mutual learning through bi-regional dialogue: Facilitate informal bi-regional stakeholder dialogues, complementing formal policy dialogue formats for advancing the bi-regional STI relationship, encouraging mutual learning, and understanding of national, regional and continental RDI in S&T strategies, priorities and instruments of relevance for cooperation.
6. Strengthening cooperation: Strengthen cooperation through increased awareness of the opportunities, the conditions, and the topics for cooperation supported by multilateral and bilateral programmes, through increasing capacities and networking of support structures for bi-regional RDI cooperation in S&T as well as fostering bi-regional networking of the science and innovation communities.

Project Results:
The first three years of CAAST-Net Plus have been spent working in two broad areas. In the first area, partners have been gathering information and generating new knowledge about scientific and technical cooperation between Africa and Europe in research and innovation around three global challenges: food and nutrition security, health, and climate change. For each of these global challenge domains we have followed four lines of enquiry substantially informed by consultations with a wide range of stakeholders and by desk studies: 1) A critical assessment of the extent to which cooperation in R&I is addressing joint objectives and priorities with particular reference to the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), whether research is being used to inform policy and programming responses and whether research outputs are being translated into new goods, technologies and services, 2) An assessment of the linkage between academic research and the business community in terms of research uptake; 3) The opportunity for coordination of national programming in support of EU-Africa research cooperation; and 4) An assessment of the process of cooperation, the environment within which cooperation takes place and the conditions which affect it.
The knowledge gathered is being used in the final period of CN+ to design and then implement sustainable interventions that would enhance the quality and/or quantity of bi-regional cooperation.
Partners have published a series of three critical reports, available on the CAAST-Net Plus website, one for each of our focus global challenges. Broadly speaking, in each of these areas we find there is a significant body of research funded under FP6 and FP7 resulting from collaboration between European and African institutes. We find however that there is a weak relationship between the JAES priorities and the focus of research projects. A low level of outcome thinking explains a paucity of plausible arguments to attribute project outputs to demonstrable outcomes. Statements of intended impact are often akin to aspirations, offering only arms-length support to wider climate and development targets, such as the MDGs and explicit explanation of how impacts can be achieved may be entirely absent. While capacity has been developed and new knowledge generated as attested by many publications, challenges exist in ensuring that new knowledge is used to inform policy, systems and processes, expand product ranges, markets and trade, and support innovation for social and economic gain in both Europe and Africa. Results are pointing to a diverse range of barriers to more effective cooperation. Issues range from an uncoordinated and inadequate resource base exemplified by poor donor coordination, absence of co-funding, and lack of infrastructure, skills and capacities, to restrictive framework and policy conditions. Other issues emerging include specific operational challenges around community engagement in clinical trials for example, to the systemic weakness of private sector engagement in the translation of research outputs into new products, technologies, procedures and diagnostics.
Much of this work, notably that which is related to food and nutrition security, and that around the exploration of framework conditions has been used to support and inform HLPD discussions on the shaping emergence of an EU-Africa R&I partnership in FNSSA under JAES.
In the second area, the project has been encouraging Africa-EU cooperation by raising awareness of opportunities under H2020, and in strengthening Africa’s expanding network of H2020 national contact points. Building on very effective collaborative between CN+, IST-Africa and the EU’s science counselor to the African Union Commission the project ran H2020 information and/or NCP training sessions in 16 countries January 2013 and December 2015, reaching close to 1200 members of Africa’s academic, research and science policy communities.

Potential Impact:
The project’s final results will be a contribution to the expansion and deepening of scientific and technological research and innovation collaboration between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe generally, and the reinforcement of the EU-Africa STI partnership particularly. The following three key impacts are foreseen:
• A more enabling policy environment including framework conditions for bi-regional cooperation (achieved through support for dialogue processes);
• The preparation of innovative new instruments, programmes or other interventions for enhancing bi-regional cooperation, including better synergy between existing actions (achieved through coordination and consultation efforts); and
• More strategic bi-regional cooperation under the H2020 (achieved through targeted operational support and maximizing synergy with other activities.)
CAAST-Net Plus’ analysis and monitoring of EU-Africa STI cooperation in three global challenges is aimed at strengthening cooperation under H2020 and providing support to policy dialogue processes. Policy dialogue engagements can suffer from poor content should appropriate knowledge resources not be available to guide deliberations. CAAST-Net Plus’ results offer authoritative analysis of policy topics related to bi-regional cooperation and of mutual concern as a resource for bi-regional STI policy dialogue processes.
Through its analysis of cooperation in global challenges, and through stakeholder consultations on framework conditions for research cooperation, on the uptake of research outputs, and on policy and programming coordination, the project’s deep appreciation of the EU-Africa STI cooperation landscape will point to scenarios for substantive and sustainable interventions to make lasting contributions to gaps in the cooperation between our two regions. These interventions, the nature of which remain to be elaborated but which could be cross-cutting, horizontal or thematically focussed, will be designed, developed and launched by partners and their external collaborators in the second half of the project.
The project will enrich bi-regional dialogue in the broader sense by supporting specific policy orientated engagements with Africa’s RECs, and by conducting policy focussed discussion on topics of bioregional relevance with stakeholder communities. Such discussion will both convey the content and outcomes of formal institutional policy dialogue to stakeholder communities and at the same time collate the views of stakeholders to inform and enrich formal policy dialogue processes.
CAAST-Net Plus’ efforts to promote African participation in the EU’s Framework Programme will focus the key constraints of lack of and late awareness of cooperation opportunities, and difficulties in finding European partners for cooperation. Targeted information and awareness-raising activities in Africa will ensure organisations with the ability to respond to specific calls for proposals, have early, and accurate intelligence on the content of these calls.
It is the nature of policy coordination and support actions such as CAAST-Net Plus, and particularly in the area of international STI cooperation, that there is a wide gulf between the actions of the project today and the eventual social and economic benefits. There is wide consensus and abundant evidence pointing to the social and economic benefits of investing in STI research and research capacity. International cooperation too is not an exception but the rule for effectively addressing global challenges. Causality and attribution across the wide gulf in a complex landscape remain intractable problems for monitoring and evaluation and it is common practice to resort to weak proxies such as attendance at events, anecdotal feedback and the enumeration of short term outputs such as policy input papers to infer eventual impact. Assuring the relevance and quality of project activities and outputs is undoubtedly key to maximising the eventual impact.

List of Websites:


Sara Calamassi, (Project Administrative Officer)
Tel.: +44 20 73806723
Record Number: 189681 / Last updated on: 2016-10-13