Cluster of Excellence. From the left: David Sumpter, Anders Hagfeldt, Meena Daivadanam, Soorej Jose Puthoopparambil, Coco Norén and Thomas Schön. Photo: Linda Koffmar2023-06-20
Africa–EU research clusters tackle urgent societal challenges
Uppsala University is participating in four new research clusters bringing together universities in Africa and the EU. The research clusters are intended to build up equitable, interdisciplinary research collaborations that address urgent global societal challenges.
The two university networks The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities (The Guild) and the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) have launched 17 Clusters of Research Excellence.
Three research clusters are coordinated by researchers at Uppsala University together with researchers at universities in Africa. In addition, Uppsala University is represented in a fourth cluster coordinated by other universities.
”This is an exciting initiative, there’s great potential to make something really good of this. The collaborations Uppsala is involved in build on existing contacts, yet still represent something quite new. There’s also a dynamism about this, with big opportunities for more new clusters in future.”, says Vice Chancellor Anders Hagfeldt.
The four clusters linked to Uppsala University focus on societal challenges in:
- Food Environments and health.
- Migration and health.
- Artificial intelligence and computational science.
- Health, gender and sexuality.
Designation as a Cluster of Research Excellence does not entail additional funding, though the projects will receive some administrative support from the Forum for Africa Studies at Uppsala University.
Shared responsibility for coordination
The purpose of the research clusters is to promote equitable and sustainable scientific collaboration in areas of global societal challenges. By taking this initiative, ARUA and The Guild aim to highlight equity as an essential condition for research collaborations to address our global societal challenges. An important aspect of the new collaboration formats is that the responsibility for coordination of the clusters is shared between universities in Africa and the EU.
“The Leaders of the African Union and the European Union have identified research and education as a key part of the strategic relationship between both continents. The Africa-Europe Clusters of Research Excellence will make a major contribution to this vision becoming a reality. We hope they will act as an inspiration to other researchers and institutions, just as they inspired our researchers, to address our pressing societal challenges collaboratively and equitably, in a deeply unequal world.”, Jan Palmowski, Secretary-General of The Guild says.
The research clusters initiative is conceived as part of the EU’s Global Gateway. Through the Global Gateway, the EU is investing in infrastructure around the world to meet its sustainable development goals, combat climate change, develop better systems for health and medical care, and strengthen the global economy.
At a joint meeting between the EU and the African Union (AU) in February 2022, political leaders from Europe and Africa identified science as a key sphere of cooperation between the continents. At the meeting, the AU-EU Innovation Agenda was presented, an initiative aimed at enhancing cooperation between research institutions on the two continents.
Building on the AU-EU Innovation Agenda, the two organisations The Guild of Research-Intensive Universities and the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) have presented their own proposal for a joint pilot programme as a potential part of the Global Gateway and the AU-EU Innovation Agenda: The Africa-EU Science, Technology and Innovation Pilot Programme. The research clusters that have now been decided on are envisaged as a first concrete step towards realising the proposed pilot programme.
Research clusters linked to Uppsala University
Each research cluster focuses on a societal challenge within the AU-EU Innovation Agenda. The clusters have been developed by the researchers themselves, identifying and formulating interdisciplinary visions in response to urgent social issues.
Food Environment Actions for the Promotion of Health
The cluster is focused on promoting good health through research, education and policy work to food environments. The triple burden if malnutrition, overnutrition and micronutrition deficiency is a critical global health challenge, driven by intersecting processess such as urbanisation, food systems transformation and socio-economic inequalities.
The coordinator at Uppsala University is Meena Daivadanam, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health.
Migration and Health
The cluster will focus on the key scientific challenge of migration and health across the AU-EU migration corridor. This corridor is associated with multiple health concerns determined by a range of structural and social factors that are experienced differently by diverse migrant groups and the communities through which they move, live and work.
The coordinator at Uppsala University is Soorej Jose Puthoopparambil, Lecturer at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health.
Addressing Global and African Challenges Through Methods From Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, and Theoretical and Computational Thinking
Applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play an essential role in achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by tackling problems in a multitude of areas. While the SDGs and many connected societal challenges are global, the goal of the cluster is to strengthen the capacity for utilising AI methods and research in AI and data science in Africa.
The coordinator at Uppsala University is Thomas Schön, Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the Department of Information Technology.
Health, Gender and Sexualities
The cluster will focus on interdisciplinary research into health issues among gender and sexual minorities. The research will aim to integrate public health and social sciences to understand the interplay between social, cultural and healthcare-related factors affecting health outcomes and access to care.
Uppsala University is represented by Mats Målqvist, Professor at the Department of Women's and Children's Health.
Uppsala University is a member of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, which consists of 21 research-intensive universities in the EU. The purpose of The Guild is to give research-intensive universities a clearer and stronger voice in the EU.
The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) has 16 member universities from various countries in Africa. ARUA aspires to expand and enhance the quality of research conducted by African researchers.
Important to bring scientific evidence to policymakers and practitioners, news article from 24 April 2023 about WHO Collaborating Centre on Migration and Health Data and Evidence at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health.
Global Gateway, information on the European Commission website