A key activity of the Swiss South African Joint Research Programme is to facilitate, host and promote mobility between academia and science councils from South Africa to Switzerland and vice versa. During the last 10 years the Swiss Embassy – sometimes with the participation of the DST, as well as the Swiss and South African implementing agencies – has seen a number of delegations to and from Switzerland. Swiss and South African officials and academics often undertake exploratory visits to either countries to ascertain the opportunity and appetite for collaboration in new domains.

Three of numerous examples are the 2017 University of Western Cape visit to Switzerland, 2019 Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences Fact-finding Mission to South Africa and the 2019 Science and Innovation Mission to Switzerland.

University of Western Cape Fact-finding Mission to Switzerland in 2017

The University of Western Cape (UWC) visit to Switzerland from2-5 October 2017 was the first official university delegation under the Swiss-SA Government-to-Government Agreement. The week was filled with discussions and considerations of collaboration opportunities. Highlights of the discussions included:

  • Fribourg University of Applied Sciences and Arts at the School of Management created a vision for research collaborations in areas related to Fintech as well as entrepreneurship 
  • Discussions at ETH Zurich took place with the Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology where they emphasized student and staff exchanges with the Department of Biotechnology at UWC
  • The World Food System Centre presented its opportunities for scholarships and project funding to the Centre of Excellence in Food Security at UWC
  • The Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences suggested a student exchange programme with a common interest in novel delivery systems for cytotoxic marine natural products
  • The Forensic Pharmacology and Toxicology Department expressed interest to explore collaboration in forensic genetics, with UWC also expressing interest to gain technical skills in using virtual and augmented reality in forensic analysis

Following this visit to Switzerland, UWC entered into an MoU with Lucerne University and also signed an agreement to do the Global Entrepreneurial Spirit Students’ Survey (GUESSS2018).

  Swiss researchers and Scientists during their visit to South Africa in 2016
Swiss researchers and Scientists during their visit to South Africa in 2016 © FDFA

2016 Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences: Fact-finding Mission to South Africa 

In 2016, the UAS visited South Africa to explore collaboration opportunities in the domain of clean energy. An energy and power ecosystem workshop brought the Swiss and South African academia together with 65 participants in Gauteng and 30 participants in Cape Town. A novel addition to the World Café concept was the service of a team of local artists who recorded the discussions and outcomes through ‘cartoonlike’ images, providing a pictorial canvas of the voices of the delegates.

The Fact-finding Mission programme aimed to introduce the 11 Swiss delegates to key role players in the energy sector. This was complemented by a tour to over 200 individuals across more than 40 institutions representing the various stakeholders in the South African energy sector. The tour was undertaken to strengthen collaboration in this field by facilitating the sharing of Swiss knowledge and technology, as well as establishing relationships to explore and benefit research partnerships in South Africa. The Embassy of Switzerland hosted a delegation from various UAS from 12-19 November 2016 in South Africa.A direct outcome of the visit was the establishment of collaborations with the South African Institute for Advanced Materials Chemistry (SAIAMC) at the University of theWestern Cape (UWC); the Faculty of Engineering at North- West University (NWU), which co-hosts the Hydrogen South Africa Infrastructure Centre of Competence; and a collaboration agreement with Stellenbosch University. Two members of the UAS 2016 delegation undertook follow-up visits in 2017 with a further project-based visit planned for 2019.

2019 Science and Innovation Mission to Switzerland

Interview with Deputy Head of Mission Mrs. Véronique Haller and Deputy Director General Mr. Mmboneni Muofhe on the  Swiss-South African cooperation and the Science & Innovation Mission to Switzerland

In 2019 the Science and Technology Office organized the first “Presence Switzerland” Innovation Mission. Presence Switzerland (PRS) is competent for the image of Switzerland abroad, and implements the strategy of the Federal Council on Switzerland’s communication abroad. Presence Switzerland is the government’s official channel of country promotion. PRS is organizing between 55 and 65 study visits annually with a total of 700 to 900 people.

The 2019 South African Innovation Mission took 12 delegates from government, research, media and the private sector to a one week visit to Switzerland with the aim to showcase the Swiss innovation ecosystem and explore future partnerships and collaborations.The delegation visited the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne EPFL, the University of Applied Sciences HES-SO and Bern, various Swiss governmental departments and agencies, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, the Canton of Basel and its Innovation Park as well as the Blockchain Valley and Trust Square in Zurich. 

The visit accelerates the Swiss-South African collaboration in 4IR and blockchain with a fruitful future outlook, it set base for a collaboration between the Cape Innovation Technology Initiative CiTi and the Bern University of Applied Sciences and initiated the cooperation between the Swiss innovation agency Innosuisse and the Technology Innovation Agency led by the South African Department of Science and Innovation. 

Further broadcasts of SABC on the Science and Innovation Mission can be found under the following links: