With the aim to strengthen the development of research networks between continents, COST organised the first ever COST Connect on Europe-Africa cooperation within COST Actions on 31 March 2021.
A quarter of African countries are already involved in one or more of the 290 running COST Actions. As the internationalisation of research is growing in importance, this workshop provided a valuable opportunity to echo the experiences from ongoing Actions involving African partners. At the same time, the event explored the challenges these researchers encountered, and highlighted the outcomes and benefits of joining COST Actions from different perspectives.
COST Director, Dr Ronald de Bruin said in his opening speech: “By being open and inclusive, a COST Action facilitates cooperation not only within the European Research Area but also with research communities based in other continent. The open nature of COST Actions offer key benefits to European and international researchers and innovators.”
Several participants in COST Actions shared their experience at the start of the workshop and testimonies included amongst others:
Prof Pezzotti from COST Action INTEGRAPE, highlighting how his network benefited from collaboration with African countries: “Wide interconnections with Africa are essential because of the incredible amount of data and genetic resources in this field, and we need to integrate their data and their activities in Europe and in worldwide’s wine research. The fact that COST has links with the different continents and neighbour countries is crucial in this respect. “
His words were echoed by Melane Vivier from South Africa, who also stressed that COST Actions provide the platform for major and emerging stakeholders to work together and increase the level of organisation for their discipline.
Dr Leila Ktari from Tunisia, participant in COST Action Ocean4Biotech said: “I was looking for an international network dealing with this field of research and found this COST Action related to seaweed technology. And what is great with a COST Action is that you can integrate it even if the project has already started.”
COST CONNECT workshops aim at fostering interactivity and stimulating exchanges amongst participants. This online COST Connect facilitated two rounds of discussions which took place in four separate virtual rooms. This was the occasion for participants to reflect on the mutual benefit of Europe-Africa cooperation in COST Actions, and discuss factors that have contributed to the success in the collaboration between European and African researchers within COST Actions.
Screenshot from the online workshop
Some partners from African countries also underlined the role of COST as a facilitator to access new H2020 funding projects.
Prof. Tamer Gamel from COST Action SOURDough said: “One of the main benefits is the networking. To have more collaborations is very beneficial for African partners. Also, once you start being involved in one project, you may have the chance of getting involved in additional ones, and join new collaborations.”
Prof Alexander Baklanov, WMO, from COST Action INDUST also stressed the importance of fostering collaboration with African researchers. “Africa is a main focus for us, and we are very happy to continue using COST as an instrument to keep establishing collaboration with African countries”.
This COST Connect brought together 15 COST Actions where there were more than two African countries participating within the networking activities.
Altogether there are 73 COST Actions running with African participants. Researchers and innovators from all African countries are welcome to participate in any running COST Actions that fits with their expertise and is based on mutual benefit.