Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom says South Africa is committed to building stronger cooperation in science, technology and innovation with the BRICS member states.

Speaking recently at the opening of the first BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa] Science, Technology and Innovation Ministerial Meeting in Kleinmond – about 90km southeast of Cape Town – Hanekom said there was great scope for further collaboration within the bloc’s framework.

“The BRICS countries are recognised as the future growth engines of the world economy. It is clear that this kind of expansion will necessarily need to be accompanied by enhanced levels of technological integration into the global community and, without a doubt, will create huge opportunities for science, technology and innovation as critical growth and development drivers of the future,” Hanekom said.

The meeting brought together science ministers or deputy ministers from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.  Its purpose was to identify and discuss mutual interests and future directions of cooperation in science, technology and innovation within the framework of BRICS, enhancing the ability of each country to address the challenges of global competitiveness and leadership in frontier sciences and new technologies, and promoting equitable growth and sustainable development through strategic cooperation, conference sources said.

Hanekom stressed the need for BRICS countries to develop new and renewable energy.”As the future engines of global growth, BRICS countries will need reliable access to modern energy services to power their rapidly growing economies, while at the same time, containing the environmental impact,” he said.

The BRICS ministers will table a memorandum of understanding aimed at strengthening cooperation between the five countries in science, technology and innovation and addressing common global and regional socioeconomic challenges through appropriate funding and investment instruments.

To achieve this goal, the five countries will use shared experiences and complementarities, the co-generation of new knowledge and innovative products, services and processes, Hanekom said.

The meeting will issue the Cape Town Declaration as the framework for future cooperation.

The BRICS ministers are expected to visit the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) site in Carnarvon, where the MeerKAT (the precursor to the SKA) is being constructed.

The SKA, the world’s biggest and most sensitive radio telescope, will be jointly built by South Africa and Australia/New Zealand.

The telescope is actually a combination of thousands of dishes and antennas, whose total collecting area will be approximately one square kilometer, giving 50 times the sensitivity and 10 000 times the survey speed of the best current-day telescopes.

It will address unanswered fundamental questions about the universe, including how the first stars and galaxies formed, how dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the universe, the role of magnetism in the cosmos, the nature of gravity, and the search for life beyond Earth.