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Research and innovation

Innovation and technologies priority

Innovation and technologies priority of the AU-EU cooperation and related partnerships

Why cooperation in innovation and technologies is important

Innovation, digitalisation and connectivity characterise the global Fourth Industrial Revolution and are key drivers for a long-term competitiveness in line with sustainable growth. It offers the opportunity for an improved and more qualified cooperation between Africa and Europe. The HLPD acknowledged the challenge by adopting the partnership on innovation in 2019.

Partnership on Innovation

The partnership on innovation is a critical framework to foster collaborative alliances and relationships between the continents. Its cross-cutting nature and potential to foster sustainable growth, development, jobs and thus stimulate entrepreneurship gives innovation a key role within a broader partnership.

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Africa-Europe Innovation Partnership (AEIP)

The Africa-Europe Innovation Partnership is the pilot project of the partnership on innovation and aims to connect high-quality tech hubs from both continents to explore opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships resulting in collaboration, exchange and growth. It was launched in 2019 with the support of the African Union Commission and paved the way for a deeper cooperation between the continents in the innovation sector.

AEIP aims to support and connect innovation and technology incubators and accelerators in tapping into new markets, find their trusted partner across the Mediterranean as well as build new perspectives, knowledge and networks. Incubators, accelerators and technology transfer offices play a key role in fostering development of innovative enterprises. They allow start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to engage in (new) business opportunities by providing support, guidance, mentorships and coaching, as well as access to essential network contacts.

The AEIP is funded by the European Commission and will run until September 2021. The team, based both in Africa and in Europe, carries out this pilot-project in close collaboration with experts of the advisory board as well as key actors from both continents.

ENRICH in Africa

The EU-funded Horizon 2020 project ENRICH in Africa (January 2021 to December 2023) seeks to set up a self-sustainable network of European and African incubators and accelerators, strengthening their capacities to boost their local innovation landscape as well as providing cutting edge value to entrepreneurs and innovators from both continents.

The project supports the strategic dialogue between Europe and Africa in innovation and builds on the successes of previous EU-funded Africa-EU innovation initiatives. It will contribute to the soon to be established EU-Africa strategic partnerships by strengthening innovation in areas such as green transition and energy access, digital transformation and sustainable growth and jobs. 

The consortium of 12 project partners consist of experienced European and African organisations in incubation, acceleration, innovation networking, digital innovation platforms and innovation funding. It will implement the project in close collaboration with experts of the advisory board as well as key innovation actors from both continents. 

Geographically, the network will cover both the EU and Sub-Saharan Africa region initially covering 10 participants from 9 African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe). The network will be expanded throughout the project and beyond by the consortium and a dedicated, Africa-based ENRICH in Africa Network Centre.

It will target the actual innovation needs of incubators, accelerators, innovators and facilitators on both continents. The objective is to provide substantial benefits through a single-entry point for the African-European innovation landscape and continued value after the project’s conclusion. It will do this by by leveraging existing innovation infrastructure, network platforms and funding opportunities as well as implementing innovation support activities and services.

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IST-Africa is the strategic collaboration in Innovation, Science and Technology between the International Information Management Corporation (IIMC), Ministries and National Councils responsible for Information Society, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Innovation Adoption, Policy and Research in 18 African Countries. The next IST Conference is scheduled for May 2021.

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The Next Society

The Next Society is an open community of changemakers, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, NGOs, public and private innovation, research and economic development hubs from Europe and 7 Mediterranean countries: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia. It aims at mobilising, promoting and reinforcing innovation ecosystems and economic development in the Middle East North Africa region.

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Further initiatives

The AU-EU priority on innovation and technology is also encompassing other initiatives related to the promotion of digital transformation and connectivity. These include

AfricaConnect3 supports advanced, reliable internet connectivity for the teaching, learning and research communities of Africa. It is co-funded by the EU and delivered locally by regional organisations - UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN and ASREN, together with GÉANT.

UbuntuNet Alliance is a regional association of National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) in Africa. 

WACREN is the West and Central African Research and Education Network. Its mission is to build and operate a world class network infrastructure, develop state of the art services, promote collaboration among national, regional, international research and education communities and build the capacity of the REN community.

ASREN the Arab States Research and Education Network. It aims to implement, manage and extend sustainable Pan-Arab e-Infrastructures dedicated for the research and education communities and to boost scientific research and cooperation in member countries through the provision of world-class e-Infrastructures and e-services.

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25 DECEMBER 2020
Concept note on innovation and digitalisation