The research cooperation framework agreement between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS), signed in August last year, will benefit a wide swathe of the South African defence and aerospace research and development (R&D) and industry sectors.

“The idea is to identify opportunities for South Africa as a whole, including industry, and not just for the CSIR,” highlights CSIR Aerospace Key Account Manager Marié Botha.

“The CSIR is excellent at providing coordination and facilitation with regard to South African research institutions, universities and companies, which is very valuable for us,” points out Airbus DS Head of Space Business Development Africa Dr Corné Eloff.

“From the Airbus DS side we’ve been examining the Defence Review, IPAP [Industrial Policy Action Plan], and so on, to align ourselves with [South African] government policies and priorities and not try and reinvent any wheels,” explains Airbus DS Head of Southern Africa Martin Sefzig.

“We have identified a number of projects, but we have yet to prioritise them.” “This has been done on a consultative basis, in line with South African priorities,” adds Botha.

The projects cover a broad and diverse range of themes. This is possible because both the CSIR and Airbus DS possess a wide diversity of specialist expertise.

“The important thing is that they’ll be national projects in national areas of priority,” affirms Botha.

“We’re not doing this in isolation, we’re informing Armscor, the Department of Defence, the South African National Space Agency, ecetera.

It is also across the whole of the CSIR and its diverse range of capabilities; its managed from our Group Executive: Strategic Alliances and Communications.

The CSIR is acting as a focal point for Airbus DS to access the South African national system of innovation, especially in aerospace and defence.”

After prioritising the projects, the next step will be to operationalise them, including identifying the people at the CSIR, Airbus DS and the other involved institutions and enterprises who will be responsible for their execution.

For each project, there will be a series of discussions covering technology and knowledge transfer, as well as other important issues. A key aim is to help in the development of a knowledge-based economy in South Africa.

Another objective is to see how this cooperation could also be used to benefit other African countries, some of which are now developing their own R&D capabilities.

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