Within the context of small fragile economies, vast oceans and extreme vulnerability, the Pacific-Europe Network for Science, Technology and Innovation (PACE-Net Plus) bi-regional dialogue platform recognises that regional cooperation amongst Small Island States of the Pacific is the only way forward to a sustainable future.
These were the comments by the Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, Honourable Siaosi Sovaleni, who officiated as the Chief Guest at the opening of the PACE-Net Plus bi-regional dialogue platform on 30 June 2016 at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, with a focus on innovation in the Pacific.
The PACE-Net Plus bi-regional dialogue platform was hosted by The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) with the theme “Moving towards a high-level policy dialogue in Science, Technology and Innovation (ST&I): Pathways to innovation in the Pacific region.”
Coordinated by the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), PACE-Net Plus is the second project funded by the European Commission to further support the institutional bi-regional policy dialogue in ST&I between the Pacific region and the European Union. One of the aims of the project is to strengthen the bi-regional cooperation in ST&I, notably through Horizon 2020, which is the European Union’s framework programme dedicated to research and innovation.
Honourable Sovaleni said within this dialogue platform, ST&I become increasingly important especially in regards to the global challenges faced by the South Pacific region. “Challenges such as energy and food security, transportation, and climate change are reasons for the Pacific to take advantage of ST&I,” he said. He also highlighted that the principal of regional and bi-regional cooperation, while respecting sovereignty and national priorities, is also reinforced and reflected by PACE-Net Plus.
Honourable Sovaleni added that in the context of the Kingdom of Tonga, the process of initiating the development of a ST&I policy framework financed by the European Commission through the PACE-Net Plus project has allowed Tonga to reassess challenges and opportunities. “It has allowed us to identify, the means of developing a more coordinated system of ST&I for Tonga, and to articulate a draft ST&I framework with strategies to improve our ST&I and legal framework; good governance; knowledge sharing; research infrastructure; advanced education and training; and entrepreneurship, innovation potential of our country,” he said. Honourable Sovaleni encouraged other Small Pacific Islands Developing States to be inspired and follow processes such as the one taken by Tonga under this project.
USP Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and International, Professor Derrick Armstrong said there is a dire need for innovations to yield specific solutions to the unique problems faced by the Pacific region. “It is also important to pilot and test innovations. In this regard, PACE-Net Plus has taken leadership and is moving in the right direction,” Professor Armstrong said.
Amongst many others, the major outcomes of PACE-Net Plus include:
- A strategic Roadmap for STI regional frameworks for a better collaboration between the European Union and the Pacific;
- The establishment of Pacific Islands University Research Network (PIURN);
- An overview of innovation niches and strategies in the region;
- Recent successful seed-funding scheme, enhancing regional and bi-regional partnerships;
- PACE-Net Plus also supports the strengthening and the coordination of observatory systems of climate change in the region.
Professor Armstrong added that USP stands poised to make significant breakthroughs in areas of immediate importance to the region, specifically in Marine Science, Agriculture, and Climate Change among other sciences. He said that with the ongoing success of PACE-Net Plus project, all contributions made by consortium members during this dialogue platform will be a significant step forward in the years to come.
While thanking the EU Delegation for the PACE-Net Plus platform’s initiative and IRD as the co-organisers of the bi-regional dialogue platform, French Ambassador, His Excellency Michael Djokovic said that French research, through research institutes and universities, has been serving Europe and the Pacific for a long time.