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Visit of Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science amp Technology and Earth Sciences to South Africa, 4-6 October 2017

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Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences was on an official visit to South Africa from 4-6 October 2017.  


The highlight was  the 20 year celebrations of India-South Africa collaboration in science and technology where a booklet highlighting two decades of fruitful cooperation in science and technology spanning across the knowledge chain was released. This has resulted into a robust networking of the best researchers and academic institutions of the two countries.


So far, the cooperation has been focussed on chosen areas like Astronomy & Astrophysics, Agriculture Sciences, Green Chemistry, Indigenous Knowledge System and Health Sciences where both countries have complementary strengths. 


With the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to South Africa in 2016, S&T cooperation has seen a significant boost with the launch of 8 new projects on Astronomy which will help augment the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project led by South Africa. 


 Indian scientists are contributing in several design work packages of SKA, notably the Telescope Manager and the Central Signal Processing. The Telescope Manager System will be the controlling nerve centre behind the functioning of the SKA observatory.  The SKA project will address some of the most interesting science goals in astrophysics, ranging from the very early Universe to the search for intelligent life out there. 



A multi-institutional project on HIV Vaccine Research Collaboration has been also initiated this year. This is aimed to develop a preventive HIV vaccine and will also lead to the identification of biomarkers and development of novel techniques for diagnosis and management of tuberculosis. Dr. Vardhan remarked that this is a unique project where two countries will use science for addressing the health care needs of the people of India and South Africa in the area of HIV/TB.


Another hallmark of the vibrant collaboration was the launch of a new program on ‘grass roots innovation’ aimed towards sharing of open source technologies and IPR protection of traditional knowledge systems. 


This program is designed for co-development of products through value addition, validation through product deployment and market ready technology transfer with a focus on affordability. The Minister remarked that both India and South Africa have a rich pool of traditional knowledge which can be leveraged  by providing the scientific knowledge base required for technology development for societal benefit. This cooperation on grass roots innovation will provide scientific and technological solutions for addressing the unmet needs of the common man.


 The novel initiative has been aptly named as the ‘Gandhi-Mandela Program on Grass Roots Innovation’. The National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad will implement this program on the Indian side.


Earlier in a bilateral meeting with the South African S&T Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan suggested a future collaboration in the area of renewable energy including solar, wind and biomass. India is a leading country in the International Solar Alliance partnership and has extended an invite to South Africa to join this alliance. 


It was also agreed that another area of potential collaboration is the blue economy looking at the marine eco-system including the living and non living resources of the ocean. Both India and South Africa are maritime nations and are a part of the Indian Ocean Rim Association. The Indian expedition to Antarctica is also launched from Cape Town. The two countries stand to gain by understanding the ocean processes which shapes the climate and coastal eco-system.


Dr. Harsh Vardhan also paid his homage to Mahatma Gandhi  at the Pietermaritzburg Railway  Station.  The Pietermaritzburg  'incident' 124 years ago was a turning point moment in the Mahatma's life and from where he went on to rewrite history books as the Father of Free India.