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SU to co-lead four newly announced Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking
Published: 21/06/2023

​​Stellenbosch University (SU)'s reputation as one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world received a major boost with the announcement that it has been awarded four of seventeen joint Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence (CoRE) created by the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) and The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities (The Guild).

The Africa-Europe CoRE was officially launched on Monday (19 June 2023) and brings together distinguished researchers from universities and research institutes across both continents, from ARUA, The Guild and beyond the two networks. It aims to transform the nature of collaborative research, foregrounding equity as a precondition for excellent and impactful research to address our common societal challenges.

The Africa-Europe CoRE is based on multilateralism and research excellence: each partnership brings together at least three African universities and two European universities to work on a thematic area of common interest, addressing the major scientific challenges through research and higher education that leverage the skills and excellence of the participating universities. These actions have a long-term perspective, spanning at least a decade, ensuring a balance between the resources and priorities of African and European universities, while focusing on the scientific education of the next generation of researchers.

The four clusters that SU will be leading or co-leading are: Addressing Global and African Challenges through Methods from Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Theoretical and Computational Thinking; Genomics for Health in Africa; Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation; and Renewable Energy.

SU will also be a partner in the Multimorbidity CoRE (co-lead by the University of Ghana and Warwick University).

In her comments, Prof Sibusiso Moyo, SU's Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies, said that the approval of these Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence fit well with the University's Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Support strategy as part of the draft Research and Innovation Blueprint 2030. Internationalisation and the reach within Africa and globally through The Guild will assist SU and its partners leverage a number of potential resources as well as contribute to the much-needed skills training within the continent.

The groundwork for the creation of research clusters was laid at a meeting in Cape Town in November 2022 by ARUA and The Guild university presidents and vice-chancellors. This follows a focused approach to develop research and research capacity across the continent.  “This brings together our many efforts over the past five years in building strategic continental and global partners. This will form the foundation to embed our intent of comprehensive internationalisation," says Prof Hester Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs at SU.

Stellenbosch University co-leading four clusters

Prof Francesco Petruccione from the SU School for Data Science and Computational Thinking and Prof Thomas Schön from Uppsala University in Sweden will be co-leading the Africa-Europe CoRE Addressing Global and African Challenges through Methods from Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Theoretical and Computational Thinking.

The cluster's priority area is innovation and technology and aims to address the effective application of AI, data science and theoretical and computational thinking to tackle pressing global and African healthcare, education, agriculture, energy and infrastructure challenges. It will bring together experts from diverse fields, such as computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics and social sciences to work on complex problems and develop innovative solutions.

  • In total, the network consists of seven ARUA universities and two institutions: University of Ghana, University of Lagos, Makerere University, University of Rwanda, University of Nairobi, Addis Ababa University, Stellenbosch University, The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and the National Institute for Theoretical ad Computational Sciences (NITheCS).The five universities from The Guild plus one international institute are as follows: Uppsala University, University of Warwick, Tubingen University, University of Ljubljana, University of Montpelier and the Abdul Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste (ICTP), Italy . 

Prof Tulio de Oliveira, Director of the Centre for Epidemic Response and Innovation (CERI) and Prof Shahida Moosa, Head of Medical Genetics, SU and Tygerberg Hospital, will co-lead the Africa-Europe CoRE Genomics for Health in Africa together with Prof Carmen Faso and Prof Volker Thiel from the University of Bern in Switzerland, and Prof Olaf Riess and Dr Tobias Haack from the University of Tubingen in Germany.

The cluster's priority area is public health and will specifically focus on rare diseases and rare cancers, in addition to pandemic preparedness and infectious diseases.

  • In total, the network consists of seven ARUA universities: University of Ghana, University of Rwanda, University of Nairobi, University of Limpopo, University of KwaZulu-Nata, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University. The six  universities from The Guild areas are: University of Glasgow, University of Groningen, University of Bonn, Radboud University, University of Tubingen and the University of Bern. 

The Africa-Europe CoRE Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation will be coordinated by Silvana Di Sabatino (University of Bologna) together with Prof Mark New (University of Cape Town) and Professor Guy Midgley (Director of SU's School for Climate Studies).

It will address both global and inter-continental challenges within the Green Transition category and advance coordinated transdisciplinary approaches to addressing climate change and biodiversity challenges that are inextricably intertwined, and therefore best addressed simultaneously, as guided by Sustainable Development Goal priorities.

  • The partnership, which includes 11 partner universities, eight of which are African, are: University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, Rhodes University, University of Ghana, University of the the Witwatersrand, University of Nairobi, Makerere University and University of Pretoria. The three European universities are Universities of Bologna, Göttingen and Glasgow. 

The Africa-Europe CoRE Renewable Energy is co-led by the current ARUA Centre of Excellence in Energy which is hosted by Stellenbosch University, and Prof Michel de Paepe, promotor and spokesperson of the multidisciplinary research group EnerGhentIC at Ghent University in Belgium.

The CoRE focuses on renewable energy technology development, equitable societal transition, and sustainable education and training. This CoRE continues on the work done being designated an ARUA Centre of Excellence between 2019-2023 and hopes to contribute significantly to tackling of one of society's biggest and most pressing needs – the current energy challenges faced within Africa and Europe.

  • The Cluster consists of seven core members: four ARUA universities (Stellenbosch University as African lead and host of the ARUA CoE in Energy, and the Universities of Ghana and Makerere and the newly added University of Lagos) and three universities from The Guild (Ghent University as European lead, and the Universities of Oslo and Groningen). 

SU is also a partner of the Africa-Europe CoRE Multimorbidity that aims to leverage digital technology and artificial intelligence to address the gaps in quantification, clustering, trend prediction and evaluate new interventions to improve diagnostics, safety and effectiveness of interventions for the prevention, treatment and control of multimorbidity in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • The African Universities involved in this Cluster are: University of Ghana, University of Pretoria, Stellenbosch University (with Dr Cari van Schalkwyk, Senior Researcher, South African Centre for the Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA)) and the University of Liberia. The Guild universities consist of University of Warwick, King's College, UK, Aarhus University, Denmark, and includes the Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Denmark. Other partners include Last Mile Health (Liberia), University of Health and Allied Sciences (Ghana) and Princess Marie-Louise Children's Hospital, Ghana.