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Enhancing Science Partnerships for Innovation and Sustainable Development

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Event calendar for the month: September 2017

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Ambassador for the Year of Science

Science Network

Human Capital Development

We are meeting the challenges of tomorrow

Qualifications for the challenges of tomorrow

Globalisation, Internet, new technologies – we are currently facing challenges that our grandparents' generation could not have even imagined. How can we maintain our ability to act both today and in the future?

The knowledge of the human race doubles every five to twelve years. New technologies make it available everywhere at ever faster speeds. Knowledge is turning into the production factor of the post-industrial society and increasingly, all areas of society are dependent on it. At the same time, technologies are becoming obsolete and with them professional qualifications.

All of these developments contain risks but, more importantly, they also present enormous opportunities. And, they are developments that are most likely irreversible. It is important not just to maintain an overview and try to keep up. We have to be able to shape these developments actively.

If we don't just want to chase after future developments but instead want to make a marked impact on them, we need the most highly trained and educated people. People with creativity who have the ability to cope with unexpected challenges. People who think one step further and develop new solutions to problems that we don't even know about yet. They are the most important capital and the most important resource that we have.

Human capital development is an interdisciplinary topic that looks at education, lifelong learning, gender mainstreaming as well as challenges such as the brain drain and unemployment from a scientific perspective. It is one of the main items on the agenda of every sustainably designed economic policy – in a country like Germany that has few raw materials as well as in the emerging national economy of South Africa.

Without any noteworthy raw materials, Germany can only survive in international competition if it continues to create the prerequisites that are needed to educate and train people with excellent qualifications in a number of different areas. This means excellent researchers as well as qualified specialists and dedicated public service employees.

But South Africa as well, which has an abundance of natural resources, knows that the greatest wealth of a country is an abundance of well-educated and trained people who are prepared to work hard to tackle the challenges of the future.

In the research and scientific collaboration between the two countries which started in 1996, the idea is to now focus attention on human capital development in its various forms. It is characterised in particular by close cooperation between non-governmental and non-university research and educational institutions.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, for example, has granted 232 research fellowships and six research awards to scientists from South Africa to date. 16 young German scientists went to South Africa on a Feodor Lynen grant during the same time frame. The "Alexander von Humboldt Association of Southern Africa" (AHASA) was founded in 2009 to further intensify cooperation. Its members also include Humboldtians who come from other countries in southern Africa.

South Africa is also one of the most important countries in Africa for the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst - DAAD). It awards grants to hundreds of German and South African students and researchers every year, has its own informational office in Johannesburg and is present in automotive engineering and political science in South Africa through two long-term professorhips.

This partnership, as well as many other joint projects between German and South Africa institutions but also between individual scientists, underscores the significance attached to education and bilateral exchange. Both countries know: we have to educate and train the work force now to be able to overcome the challenges that the future will bring.