Seminar PR: Highlighting the benefits and vitality of advanced research and innovations in the field of science and technology, an international seminar stressed the need for fully exploiting the funding opportunities being provided by the European Union through its Horizon 2020 initiative as it would help further stimulate research and development projects in developing countries.

The awareness seminar was arranged by the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) in collaboration with the Service Facility Wing of the European Union about the EU’s Horizon 2020 here on Monday.

Purpose of the event was to educate the academia and research organizations on various aspects of applying for the funding under the Horizon 2020, which is one of the biggest EU research and innovation programme. The programme that is worth €80 billion is available from 2014-2020 and caters to three key areas — excellent science, industrial leadership, and societal challenges.

Minister and Deputy Head of Mission, Delegation of the European Union to Pakistan, Anne Marchal, and COMSATS Executive Director Dr. S. M. Junaid Zaidi spoke on behalf of their organizations.

The event was attended by a number of vice-chancellors and researchers, looking to improving chances of benefitting from good funding opportunities. The event proceedings were made available through live-streaming to a wider audience, including COMSATS ministerial focal points, Centres of Excellence, and partner organizations in different continents.

Some representatives of foreign missions in Pakistan were also present on the occasion.

A Technology Transfer Consultant, M. George Panagopoulos, provided training on three thematic aspects pertaining to H2020. These covered an introduction to the programme and work plan for the last two years; sources of information on the programmes and documentation needs; and ways to prepare and submit proposals best suited to qualify for the funding.

Panagopoulos, who was representing the PRAXI Network, Greece, highlighted the available funding opportunities in the fields of transport, energy, environment, biotechnology, nanotechnology, defense, agriculture, forestry, social sciences.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Zaidi recalled to the audience the warm working relations that COMSATS has been able to establish with organizations from the North over the span of last few months, including the European Commission. He believed that all who attended the seminar physically as well as electronically would feel better informed and equipped to duly benefit from the H2020.

Highlighting the importance of good research, he emphasized the need for developing countries to benefit from the programme and considered COMSATS a useful facilitation platform in this regard.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Marchal highlighted the importance of H2020 for researchers and scientists across the globe and appreciated COMSATS’ efforts to disseminate important information about the programme for the benefit of many. She considered programmes such as Erasmus+ and H2020 as an important link between the EU and developing countries. She informed that the seminar materialized as a result of the working relations developed between COMSATS and EU earlier and thanked Dr. Zaidi for a proactive partnership from COMSATS.

The participants of the event took with them great encouragement in the form of success stories from Pakistan. Two Pakistani researchers, Prof. Dr. Syed Habib Bukhari and Dr. Aminah Khan shared their experiences that helped them secure funding for their projects under the programme. Dr. Bukhari and Dr. Khan had won funding for their projects on “MeTABLE–Advanced Bioinformatics for Genome and Metagenomeand Discovery of Novel Biocatalyst from Extremophiles: Implications for Improving Industrial Processes” and “Tobacco cessation within TB programmes: A ‘real world’ solution for countries with dual burden of disease”, respectively.

Discussion and Q&A sessions of the event further complemented the training imparted during the seminar. These pertained to national focal points for H2020, available sources of information, capacity-building aspects of the projects, joint venturing between universities, possibilities for social science related projects, important timelines, ICTs in agriculture, inter-disciplinary of the projects.