As the 15th BRICS Summit wrapped up in Johannesburg, science, technology and innovation (STI) remains an important priority of the BRICS nations: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
The Department of Science and Innovation hosted the BRICS STI Ministerial Meeting from 3 to 4 August in Gqeberha, where the countries adopted the Gqeberha Declaration. The declaration welcomed the further development of the BRICS Network Centre for Materials Science and Nanotechnology to foster cooperation among the BRICS countries in materials science and nanotechnology, including through the training of scientists, facilitating access to research infrastructures and the sharing of information.
The ministerial meeting was preceded by the BRICS Young Scientist Forum (YSF), which focused on transforming skills development for the future. The YSF brought together 200 master's and PhD students from BRICS countries, who discussed themes aligned to South Africa's Societal Grand Challenges such as climate change and the future of society, among other things.
The themes were an effort to reform sustainable inclusive development in Africa and the Global South by unlocking economic opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Area and strengthening post-pandemic socio-economic recovery.
The YSF also included the Young Innovators Prize (YIP). Organised by the DSI's entity, the Technology Innovation Agency, the YIP rewarded young scientists for their innovations that are created to benefit society. The winners were announced during a dinner hosted by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande. The Minister congratulated the 2023 winners for their work in mining, agriculture, manufacturing and the circular economy.
Prof. Dmitry Yudin from Russia scooped the first prize, winning $25 000, with China's Liu Guangsheng and Brazil's Dr Marlon Wesley Machado Cunico winning $15 000 and $10 000 respectively for the second and third prizes.
Minister Nzimande called for greater collaboration by young scientists and innovators in the BRICS STI partnership, through initiatives such as short-term fellowships with shared interests. He also supported a proposal to create an alumni network of young scientists.
"The YIP addressed priority themes of the STI Decadal Plan such as the unlocking of new sources of economic growth and increasing the competitiveness of our industries," Dr Nzimande said.
The Minister said that finding appropriate mechanisms for enabling cooperation and joint programmes between BRICS and African funders of research and innovation will be a strategic game-changer for pan-African science funding.
Interventions called by Minister Nzimande to prepare future cooperations included:
- South African participants to work with partners from other African countries under the forthcoming BRICS Framework Programme on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation proposals.
- Providing funding to the South African participants in current BRICS Framework Programme projects to facilitate networking between BRICS researchers and counterparts in other African countries, with the aim of building BRICS-Africa networks.
- Organising a symposium between BRICS funding agencies and their African counterparts to consider possible future joint funding initiatives.
Additional initiatives like the first BRICS Conference on Technology Foresight, hosted by our National Advisory Council on Innovation, will be included as part of the Science Forum, South Africa's biggest public science event.
Russia will host the next BRICS STI Ministerial Meeting as it takes over the chairmanship in 2024.