Research collaboration, particularly on food and nutrition security, is the main objective of a bilateral agreement between Stellenbosch University (SU) and the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich.)
According to Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen, acting Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, the formal link to the ETH Zurich associates SU with one of the finest institutions in the world, but moreover, it is the formalisation of a research collaboration that holds potential for academic and societal impact.
In response to why ETH Zurich has forged this African partnership, the institution emphasises that it “seeks strategic international collaborations that align with its expertise and advance its research and educational interests, while contributing to solving some of the world's biggest challenges. Stellenbosch, a well-established research-intensive university, ranks highly in the region and values international quality standards. Most importantly for the Swiss, it opens wider a network to African scholars and connections to other countries within the region.”
The agreement for cooperation which will put into practice the development of excellent research projects, was signed in Stellenbosch at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) on 26 August 2014. This agreement is the result of discussions that started in 2013, particularly in the field of food and nutrition security.
The food and nutrition security project that was detailed during a joint workshop attended by academics from both institutions in 2014, will be the flagship project for the collaboration and includes sub-projects in cross-cutting fields of sustainable production systems, human nutrition, water, conservation ecology and invasive species, food science, mineralogy and insect physiology. The collaboration will include the full spectrum of educational activities: joint research, staff and student exchanges as well as the sharing of information on science and technology.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was attended by senior academics and management staff from Stellenbosch University, and the Swiss institution was represented by Prof Lino Guzzella (Rector, ETH Zurich,) Prof Peter Edwards (Director Singapore-ETH Centre) and Dr Jürg Brunnschweiler (ETH Global.) Officials from the Swiss Embassy in Pretoria also attended the signing ceremony.
The programme included the formal signing of the agreement, as well as two key-note presentations, one by Prof Gideon Wolfaardt, Director at Stellenbosch University Water Institute, and the other was a joint presentation by Julia Harper, Food Security Initiative Manager; Dr Nick Kotzé and Dr Elsje Pieterse on the progress made in the first activities of the cooperation.