- For the first time, researchers in Africa and other developing countries will be able to apply for European Union (EU) funding under nearly the same terms as European researchers, as opposed to a limited amount of funding for earmarked projects. Especially South African scientists already have known how to make use of these funds.
The first round of calls for the European Union's US$ 69 billion Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) - which includes scientists from developing countries - will be announced today, on 22 December.
"By facilitating international cooperation we aim to create a science programme that meets real social and economic needs, both in the European Union (EU) and worldwide," said Antonia Mochan, spokeswoman for Janez Potoènik, the European Commissioner for science and research.
Priority areas of research identified for African and other developing countries include health, environment, transportation and agriculture. In particular, the seven-year funding mechanism emphasises innovation for rapid diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and tests for drug resistance - areas very relevant for African government researchers.
Researchers from African countries will be eligible for all-funding mechanisms, as long as they apply as part of a team that includes at least three EU member states or EU partner countries. There is also specific funding available in each of the priority areas, for which up to two EU and two non-EU countries can apply in collaboration.
The programme will give precedence to projects mutually beneficial to the EU and developing countries.
"When it comes to which countries are involved in cooperation, there are no hard and fast rules. We aim to be pragmatic. Calls for proposals will end up being more specific than general rules," Ms Mochan told the science media 'SciDev.Net'.
Last February, extra funds were made available under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) to promote cooperation between researchers in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the EU and Latin America. South African researchers are among those who took up last year's offer, in conjunction with the European-South African Scientific and Technology Advancement Programme.
Next year's programme - the FP7 - aims to improve on this success and promote competition. Over 300 proposals of intended participation in FP6 came from South Africa alone, meaning that opportunities are still best known in this country.
"Whereas FP6 had projects put aside for international cooperation, in FP7 it can potentially be part of all programs, so the funding is less ring fenced. There is still a small budget for very specific activities but it is much more open," says Ms Mochan.
FP7 will run from 1 January 2007 until December 2013. Information on how to apply for funds can be found at the website of the Community Research & Development Information Service.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.