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Discussion Papers (series)

Assertive, appreciative and aloof: South Africa, Cabo Verde and Ghana reflect on EU research and innovation collaboration


Mariella Di Ciommo, Emmanuel De Groof and Sanne Thijssen, ECDPM paper, March 2019

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Research and innovation (R&I) is a key ingredient of sustainable development. It is also an asset that the EU wishes to leverage to create more horizontal, mutually beneficial and multi-actor partnerships with middle-income countries (MICs). Our study presents the perspectives on R&I cooperation with the EU in Cabo Verde, Ghana and South Africa.

While the EU has a strikingly different profile in each country, all national R&I communities share an interest in collaborating with the EU. This interest springs from the EU’s financial resources, the quality and quantity of research, its intercultural and multilingual networks, and its ability to make a structural contribution to national capacities, for example under the Horizon 2020 R&I programme.

R&I can offer opportunities for innovative partnerships, but partners would prefer a more honest communication on the motives and the benefits the EU expects to gain from collaboration. They would also like to see simpler procedures for participation in EU R&I programmes and, more broadly, a nimbler EU that can adapt to local agendas and the workings of dynamic enterprises. There is a clear need in all three countries for context-relevant and nationally-owned research agendas.

The EU should decide whether and how to launch an R&I collaboration and this should be an explicit, well thought-out choice rather than an accidental outcome. Otherwise, the EU risks becoming just one among many actors.

The negotiations on the EU’s new R&I programme under the 2021-2027 budget and the programming of international resources present an opportunity for approaching international R&I collaboration more strategically. This will be the topic of a second dedicated paper.

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The second paper of this two-part series on research and innovation can be found here. To access our previous work on how the European Union collaborates with middle-income and more advanced developing countries, please click here.

Photo courtesy of NESA by Makers via Unplash.

In addition to structural support by ECDPM’s institutional partners: The Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Austria, this paper also benefits from funding by UK aid from the Department for International Development (DFID), United Kingdom.

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Discussion Papers (series)Middle Income Countries (MIC)Cape VerdeGhanaSouth Africa