e-AGE22 “Science Cooperation – Taking NRENs Further”

Ambassador Christian Berger, Head of the EU Delegation to Egypt


Allow me to thank Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman of ASREN for his in-depth presentation of EU R&I support to the Arab region and for the invitation to speak at today’s event.  I would also like to thank Mr Yousef Torman, Managing Director, ASREN for the very active engagement with all colleagues here in Cairo and Brussels.  ASREN has always been one of the main partners in the region bringing together national research and education networks from all over Arab States.  ASREN has an essential and increasingly important role in supporting Open Science in the region and collaboration in the region.


Education, research and innovation have always been among the main pillars of the EU cooperation with our neighbours. These sectors are at the heart of achieving the SDGs, combating climate change, fostering employability and economic growth as well as regional integration. 


We aim to continue providing support the both EU and Arab researchers. 


Here is how:  Horizon Europe - our main programme for funding research and innovation - is open to our partners with new calls, and we will be organising information days to which all our partners in the Arab region will be invited to participate and discover new cooperation opportunities.


Today, during the afternoon session, we will brief you about the open calls. The Horizon Europe work programme 2023-2024, includes 28 topics with a budget of 320 million under Calls for Proposals that are particularly relevant for co-operation with the Mediterranean region. This contributes to the R&I Roadmaps on the three priorities for EU-Mediterranean co-operation in research and innovation adopted at the UfM R&I Ministerial Meeting on 27 June 2022, on climate change, renewable energies and health.


The Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023-2024, includes an Africa Initiative, with 30 topics amounting to a budget of approximately 300 million. This is the second Africa initiative under Horizon Europe. The Africa Initiative II will enable the implementation of some short- and medium-term actions of the new joint AU-EU Innovation Agenda, a flagship initiative of the Global Gateway Africa Europe Investment Package, with the goal of accelerating the translation of Research & Innovation endeavours into tangible and sustainable products, businesses, services and jobs, in both Africa and Europe.


It is important to note that we are not starting from scratch.  Researchers from our regions have actively and enthusiastically worked together in collaborative projects through various EU programmes over the years.  Under previous programmes, over 1500 projects involving researchers from Arab States have been funded under EU different research framework programmes.  To give just a concrete example, under H2020, there are more 358 participants from Arab partner countries involved in H2020 projects


As you surely know, we also have PRIMA. Together with our Southern Mediterranean partners, we launched in 2018 the partnership for research and innovation in the Mediterranean area (PRIMA).  We have made impressive progress.  PRIMAs total budget is EUR 494 million, with EUR 220 million coming from H2020 and EUR 274 million from national resources of 19 participating states.  The first funding cycles of PRIMA were completed with high interest from the applicants. In total, 168 projects were funded with a total budget of EUR 225 million.


Also, in the context of the League of Arab States, the EU- LAS Summit in 2019 explicitly mentioned science, research, and technology among the co-operation areas in the summit's joint declaration with an intent to develop Euro-Arab cooperation agendas in these fields. The joint 2019 declaration reiterated the leaders' full commitment to the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Needless to say that the role of "education" or better the role of "learning" and innovation are crucial to achieving the Agenda for sustainable development.


With a focus on Higher Education, our partnership through Erasmus + has become a successful and popular way to study and train, and to foster co-operation between educational institutions. Between 2014 - 2020, Erasmus plus supported more than 200 capacity building projects in higher education institutions in LAS members.  We now hope to see further collaboration under the new calls, which were published on 23 November 2022, with a deadline for application mid-Februry 2023 until mid-March 2023.


On connectivity, for example, and in particular in collaboration with ASREN, projects include: MEDUSA, a private-led initiative that consists of the design, manufacturing and deployment of a submarine cable system inter-connecting the EU with the North African countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt) and will enhance the connectivity of National Research and Education Networks in the EU and its Southern Neighbourhood.


AfricaConnect contributed to support the creation, development and use of high-capacity research and education networks in Africa. The main objective is to facilitate comprehensive access to scientific resources and repositories to enhance productivity in science and innovation in research.  


EUMEDCONNECT provided the Mediterranean with a gateway to global research collaboration. Offering a direct link to GÉANT, its pan-European counterpart, allowing approximately 2 million users in around 700 institutions across North Africa and the Middle East to collaborate with their peers at more than 4000 research and education establishments in Europe.


We hope to continue our fruitful collaboration and wish you a successful event.