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Enhancing Science Partnerships for Innovation and Sustainable Development


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Interview with the special ambassador of the Year of Science, Motsi Mabuse
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Photo gallery: Closing Event in Berlin 16/04/2013

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The people's most precious commodity

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(c) DST

In October, the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013 focuses on “Health Innovation”. This Year of Science is a collaboration between the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and South Africa's partner ministry, the Department for Science and Technology (DST).

All over the world, personal health is among the most precious of commodities for the human race. The conditions under which it is cared for and maintained vary greatly, however. While South Africa is mainly concerned with fighting infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, the Germans are increasingly suffering from "lifestyle diseases" such as obesity and high blood pressure. In the land on the Cape of Good Hope, the main priority is to provide a blanket system of basic healthcare treatment – a strategic and financial challenge. In Germany, the steadily increasing costs in the health sector caused by the ageing population must be brought under control. Despite all their differences, there are some central issues which are of equal concern to both countries. How can the health risks, and therefore unnecessary costs, be reduced? How can precautionary measures and patient care be structured more efficiently? "Answers are provided by practically-oriented research that brings forth modern drugs and treatment methods and can therefore help to secure an important element of every person's quality of life", emphasises Prof. Dr. Annette Schavan, Germany's Federal Minister of Education and Research.

One objective of the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013 is to strengthen the joint establishment of research infrastructures and advance the international coordination of research programmes. These activities include both the faster transfer of research findings in practice and, for example, the exchange of experiences in the fields of prevention research and health education which is so important for South Africa. The call for initiatives which is being organised by the two ministries as part of the Science Year is also encouraging and supporting forward-looking projects from the field of health economics. For example, one workshop being supported is "MOBIMED – IT-based technologies for rural healthcare and mobile clinics in South Africa", a cooperation between the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT), Hasso-Plattner-Institut für Software-Systemtechnik GmbH, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, the Potsdam-based research network "pearls" and the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. The project's central objective is the exchange of ideas and opinions between South African and German researchers in the field of IT-based healthcare provision that opens up opportunities for countries where, in particular, access to medical care is limited. In this way, the adaptation of the diagnostic systems to systems linked up with mobiles and smartphones could secure improved healthcare provision in remote areas. 

The German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013, whose motto is "Enhancing Science Partnerships for Innovation and Sustainable Development", deals with seven globally-relevant thematic areas: astronomy, bioeconomics, human capital development, innovations in healthcare, climate change, humanities and social sciences, and urbanisation/megacities. In the "Join In" section, anyone who is interested can register in the German-South African Science Network. The portal gives members the opportunity to introduce themselves and their respective fields of research and to exchange views and experiences with other German and South African scientists. In this way it contributes to the emergence of new collaborations and partnerships.