The BRICS-bloc in the New Digital Age: Using research into STI to prepare a bright future for 4 billion people

In the New Digital Age – where science, technology, innovation (STI) will differentiate leaders from followers, forward-thinkers from the reactionary, and future-fit economies from those begging for crumbs (read: aid packages) – there will be no second-place medals.

Nations that do not prepare for tomorrow, right now, will be left way behind while others progress admirably.

Never a time has a simple shift in national development policies, a bold leadership, and international cooperation combined to determine which nation succeeds in creating a great future for its people than the dying days of this generation.

That the BRICS five-nation bloc will be home to the highest number of people in a decade or less is no longer news.

What is, however, captivating is the unprecedented cooperative measures targeted at tapping into Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) as the propelling force to lead billions of people into a new and glorious dawn when the Fourth Industrial Revolution fully kicks in.

Multilateral Research Cooperation: The BRICS bridge into the future

Multilateral Research Cooperation: The BRICS bridge into the future

Building on the outcome of many summits over the last decade – and particularly the MOU on STI Cooperation adopted in 2015, member-nations in the BRICS alliance are relying on research in priority areas to solve present challenges and, as such, create a better world for generations yet unborn.

The STI Cooperation is aimed at:

…guiding overall cooperation covering sustainable agriculture, food security, natural disasters, water resources and pollution treatment, new and renewable energy, energy efficiency, space research, geospatial technology, medicine and life sciences, new materials and nanomaterials, photonics, information and communication technology, ocean and polar sciences, etc.BRICS STI

As advanced economies in their rights, the BRICS nations continue to invest in their respective research institutions and researchers to literarily build the future.

Researchers and academics working in any of the countries in the union are, biennially, since 2015, invited to conduct funded-research into any of the priority areas – at a multilateral level.

This approach is significant and further accentuates the spirit behind the unparalleled cooperation the bloc has enjoyed for a decade.

Originally launched in 2015, the BRICS STI Framework Programme (BRICS STI FP) in general, and specifically, the 3rd coordinated call for BRICS multilateral projects present an opportunity for researchers to collaborate on more sectors.

This call is aimed at providing solutions to multiple problems that are currently plaguing the world.

Similar: The BRICS countries bank on technology to build a new future

Joint funding makes research easier and more meaningful

Joint funding makes research easier and more meaningful

The collaborative nature of the framework is further pronounced in the manner of funding opportunities geared towards the research initiatives.

This cooperation is a testimony to the solid partnership among member-countries in the bloc.

As such, research funding agencies in the BRICS countries have established a common scheme to finance the diverse research that covers the priority areas.

Two Brazilian agencies are funding the initiative, thus: the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), and the Brazilian Innovation Agency (Finep).

From Russia is the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE), Ministry of Science and Higher Education (MSHE), and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR).

India’s contribution to the research works will be coordinated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Similarly, the Chinese will provide funding through the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

Lastly, South Africa’s contribution will be coming from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Together, all these organisations will ensure there is proper funding for the ambitious research projects such that the multilateral and cooperative approach will yield results that will not only be peer-reviewed-proof, but meaningful and impactful too.

13 thematic areas usher hope for a better and more sustainable future

Sustainability is at the core of the research funded by these agencies.

Cutting carbon emission and creating a more sustainable industrial world, among other key outcomes, are some of the core mandates the researchers are saddled with.

Jointly, the academics are expected to carry out basic, applied, and innovative research projects on a multilateral approach to solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

For instance,

  • Find a solution to the tons of smog particles hovering over Chinese cities,
  • Find ways to improve on India’s expanding industries and production models while cutting down on the lung disease-causing soot raining down multiple cities,
  • Find new technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that significantly contribute to the rapid melting of large swathes of ice sheets which, in turn, emit methane gas in Siberia,
  • Find ways to accommodate the farming industry and as such, reduce the widespread logging and commercial animal feed farming model that is steadily damaging the ‘lungs of the world’ in the Brazilian Amazon,
  • Create and deploy alternative sources of energy that will drastically reduce coal mining activities which significantly contribute to the daily pollution of South African water resources

Tied together, these short examples all result in the same outcome: make the world cleaner, find new alternative sources of energy and leave a more sustainable planet for those coming hereafter.

2019; a watershed moment for Earth’s sustainability

2019; a watershed moment for Earth’s sustainability

Image: Shutterstock.com

The impending population growth envisaged in the BRICS countries will result in chaos and underdevelopment if these crucial research projects are not embarked upon today, targeted at finding readily applicable solutions.

In effect, the 13 priority areas researchers are concerned with revolve around sustainability.

They are:

  • Prevention and monitoring of natural disasters
  • Water resources and pollution treatment
  • Geospatial technology and its applications
  • New and renewable energy, and energy efficiency, including SSL (Solid-state lightning)
  • Astronomy
  • Biotechnology and biomedicine including human health and neuroscience
  • Information technologies and high-performance computing
  • Ocean and polar science and technology
  • Material science including nanotechnology
  • Photonics
  • Aeronautics
  • Research infrastructures, including mega-science projects
  • Science, Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Partnership (STIEP)

Relatedly, the BRICS Business Council will be hosting the 2019 edition of the BRICS Business Forum which is focused on the Digital Economy as well as Future Skills.

There is also, a side event tagged International Dialogue on Sustainable Resources.

The events are scheduled to hold from the 12-14 November (except the side event planned for the 11th).

The BRICS Institute (in partnership with Brand South Africa) also plans to keep the STI conversation going as it hosts diplomats and industry leaders at its Sandton, Johannesburg centre on the 3rd of December, 2019.

The BRICS Executive Leadership Development (BELD) event coming up in December is the buildup to an executive development immersion programme scheduled for February 2020.

Conclusion

BRICS Countries use STI to develop human capital

To avert the impending doom awaiting the planet, investing in science, technology, and innovation is critical.

If the warnings issued by the Science and Security Board, a group of scientists monitoring the Doomsday Clock, is anything to go by, our planet has only “two minutes to midnight”, a very short time to reverse the colossal damage humans have meted out on the Earth.

We are closest to human extinction than ever before but also saddled with a rare opportunity to reverse the decline using STI – which the BRICS STI Framework Programme plans to do.

It means, in essence, that the work of these academics and scientists is more crucial than ever, efforts that should be encouraged and supported by all well-meaning individuals that call Planet Earth home.

Continue reading here: Using Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) to further cement ties among BRICS countries

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