Universities launch Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence to pioneer new approach to equitable collaboration
At their recent summit in Brussels, the Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities (The Guild) have launched seventeen research clusters that aim to transform the nature of collaborative research, foregrounding equity as a precondition for excellent and impactful research to address our common societal challenges.
The Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence (CoRE) bring together distinguished researchers from universities and research institutes across both continents, from ARUA, The Guild and beyond the two networks. Each addresses a key societal challenge, framed by the Global Gateway’s AU-EU Innovation Agenda, in the context of local perspectives to ensure maximum scientific and societal impact. Over the past six months, each Cluster was developed through bottom-up, as researchers identified and formulated interdisciplinary visions in response to the pressing needs of our societies.
The Clusters are formed in the context of a clear and unequivocal support in the R&I sector, in Europe and Africa, to develop science collaboration equitably and sustainably, and the urgent demand to funders like the European Union to develop a more integrated approach that focuses on excellence and capacity-building. To this end, the Clusters are aimed to open up new dialogues with policy-makers and funders in both continents and beyond, to identify ground-breaking solutions and create opportunities for investment in societal transformation.
The Africa-Europe CoRE, led by ARUA and The Guild, address head-on the inequity that has characterised research in relation to Africa, to the detriment of global science. In particular, they are distinguished by:
- Equity, as a precondition for producing outstanding research with maximum societal impact.
- A commitment to societal transformation, as each Cluster focuses on acute societal needs that require the urgent focus of research and innovation.
- Inclusiveness, as the Clusters bring together researchers from universities and research institutes from across Europe and Africa, far beyond ARUA and The Guild.
- Long-term commitment from researchers, underwritten by long-term institutional support.
- Commitment to transforming Africa’s capacity for knowledge production, with a particular focus on young researchers (including Masters and PhD students), ensuring they are embedded in global scientific networks, and giving them the best possible opportunities to contribute to global science in Africa.
- Commitment to capacity-building in high-level research infrastructures open to all who need it, and to seek a coalition of funders to achieve this aim.
The Africa-Europe CoRE will thus develop new research paradigms and transform our joint capacities to overcome major health challenges, address climate change, strengthen our technological transformations, and sustain our societies facing conflict and change. They will help ensure that a common research agenda is at the heart of the African Union’s Africa 2063 strategy which envisages Africa’s transformation to a knowledge society. The Clusters also strengthen the capacity of research and innovation to make a major contribution to each priority of the European Union’s Global Gateway.
Ernest Aryeetey, Secretary-General of ARUA said: “The prevailing obstacles to effective and equitable partnerships between African and European researchers will diminish in significance as the Africa-Europe Clusters of Excellence do what they are expected to do. The Clusters have been developed on the basis of trust and shared values between African and European researchers, and this is going to be the reason for their success in the years ahead. I am very optimistic that we will see a significant improvement in the quality of research and in the number of high-quality and impactful graduate students coming out of our universities.”
Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of The Guild said: “The Leaders of the African Union and the European Union have identified research and education as a key part of the strategic relationship between both continents. The Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence will make a major contribution to this vision becoming a reality. We hope they will act as an inspiration to other researchers and institutions, just as they inspired our researchers, to address our pressing societal challenges collaboratively and equitably, in a deeply unequal world.”