In an era of increased demand for impact on knowledge and innovation systems, networks among universities and science council are becoming an integral mechanism for enabling and increasing research, education, and innovation impact.
As part of an overarching agenda to increase STI collaboration between South Africa and Canada, the NRF, in partnership with the Canadian High Commission in South Africa, the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC), the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), Universities South Africa (USAf), and the South African Embassy and Consulate-General’s office in Canada, hosted the South Africa-Canada Councils and Universities’ Network Week in Ottawa and Toronto, Canada during the week of 24 –-27 April 2023.
This ambitious engagement draws on complementary strengths of both South Africa and Canada. Among others, the visit was aimed at leveraging efforts from diplomatic missions, civil society organisations, learned societies and research agencies and ministries in both countries participating alongside institutions of higher education to advance a range of co-designed and mutually collaborative academic ventures. Among others, the Canadian institutions shared effective innovation ecosystems and practical approaches to scale industry-academic programmes.
The South African delegation consisted of 48 senior delegates representing four councils (NRF, Agricultural Research Council – ARC, Human Sciences Research Council- HSRC, and the SA Medical Research Council – SAMRC), university representatives of Vice-Chancellors and senior delegations from 21 South African universities, and Universities South Africa (USAf).
The councils meeting in Ottawa during 24 and 25 April 2023 leveraged additionality between Science Councils in South Africa and Canada, and included the [Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), National Research Council of Canada (NRC), Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), as well as the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and mitacs. A joint meeting was led by the SSHRC President and CRCC Chairperson, Prof Ted Hewitt.
The engagements in Toronto during 24 – 27 April 2023, held during the Universities Canada Annual General meeting and the Ontario Council on University Research (OCUR) meetings, included visits to innovation hubs and programmes at York and Toronto universities among others. Speaking during the event, Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, CEO of the NRF highlighted the need for increased coordination among institutions, through inter alia developing mechanisms that promote and support joint funding and programming between Canada and South Africa.
University and Council networks are an integral and important mechanisms for enabling and increasing South Africa’s research, education, and innovation impact. The announcement of the SA-Canada University Network (SACUN) will provide a critical pathway for leveraging resources for additionality, research excellence, skills development, as well as institutional excellence between South Africa and Canada.
The NRF would like to thank: the leadership of Prof Ted Hewitt, Dr Gath Williams (CRCC), key government officials led by: Francis Bilodeau, the Associate Deputy Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Nipun Vats Assistant Deputy Minister, Innovation Science and Economic Development (ISED); Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic, HE Chris Cooter, High Commissioner for Canada in South Africa; HE Riaz Sheik, the South African High Commissioner to Canada; University representatives from Canada (Universities Canada, Ontario Council on University Research, York University, Toronto University), the South African DSI, university and council representatives and various other stakeholders.