In 2014, South Africa became the latest country to associate itself with the EUREKA Network. The main objective of this association is to strengthen the competitiveness of both European and South African economies through the development of innovative joint research and development projects of mutual benefit. The agreement will secure networking opportunities between innovative firms and research organisations from South Africa and EUREKA member countries, which in turn will provide easier access to European and African markets.
South Africa is the second largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa and is often perceived as a gateway and technology hub to the continent. It is classified as an upper middle-income country (GDP per capita of $12,504) with an abundant supply of natural resources, well-developed financial and legal systems, well-functioning energy and transport sectors and a relatively modern infrastructure. It is also the most advanced country in Africa in the field of research and innovation. It has a clear ambition of becoming a knowledge-based economy.
South Africa’s growth expenditure on R&D accounts for 1% of its GDP and appears quite significant when compared to other regions or countries in the world. The total annual R&D investment in South Africa reaches around €2 billion with a share of government expenditure amounting to 44.4%. South Africa enjoys an excellent scientific higher education and university system, modern international-level research infrastructures and these factors, along with an important market potential, are beneficial to its EUREKA associated status.
The government shows support towards developing a knowledge-based economy together with a definite will to bridge research and innovation. However, close ties between universities and industry still appear insufficient and turning knowledge into innovative products on the market remains a challenge. South Africa has a science and technology cooperation agreement with the European Union since 1996. The country has been active in nearly all areas in terms of participation in the successive EU Framework Programmes for R&D, showing evidence of its potential in high-technology.
The South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) hosts the national EUREKA contact office. It will facilitate the start-up and operation of EUREKA projects and lead companies through their next stages of development. With innovation in the water sector being one of the main priorities of South Africa, ACQUEAU, the EUREKA Cluster for water technologies, has already initiated several projects with European and South African partners.
Through the association of the Republic of South Africa to its network, EUREKA extends its presence to four continents. With its increasing presence across the globe, EUREKA continues to contribute to stimulating business and growth in its member countries, reinforcing its position as a key international player in innovation.