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.
The PACE-Net Plus bi-regional dialogue platform is 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.”
PACE-Net Plus is the second project funded by the European Commission to further support the institutional bi-regional policy dialogue in Science and Technology 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,” Honourable Sovaleni said.
He 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,” he said.
“It has allowed us 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.
“ST&I is a key to our countries, stimulating our economies and realising our futures and should underpin our development frameworks, including at a regional Pacific level to enable us to develop in a more sustainable and progressive manner,” he noted.
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:
- The establishment of Pacific Islands University Research Network;
- Better collaboration between the European Union and the Pacific; and
- Recent funded successful projects.
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.
“The University strongly advocates the use of ICT to provide solutions and serve the needs of the region. We have come a long way to delivering ICT leverage, tools and services throughout the region and help our people embrace better livelihoods,” Professor Armstrong added.
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 the Institute for Research Development (IRD) as the coordinator 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.
“I would like to acknowledge today the presence of some of the French universities present in the region including the IRD, Institute Pasteur de New Caledonia, Institute Louise Malarde from Tahiti and the University of New Caledonia,” His Excellency Djokovic said.