Having recently received a boost from the official incorporation of two new partners, the ACGT has kicked off the process of strategising its next phase of growth. On 14 June 2011 the Centre held its 2011-2015 Strategy Session to plot the trajectory for the next five years.
The session, which took place at the University of Pretoria (UP)’s Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), received strong representation from the five ACGT partner institutions, and affiliate member – the University of Limpopo (UL); the national Department of Science and Technology (DST); the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (NEPAD SANBio).
Prof Anton Ströh, the session Chair and Dean of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UP, began the day’s proceedings by officially welcoming Dr John Becker as the new ACGT Centre Manager and thanking the Centre’s former Director, Prof Jane Morris, for the numerous achievements she had spearheaded during her decade-long tenure.
IDr Becker then addressed the session with a presentation that laid the strategic framework for the discussions going forward. Among the priority issues under scrutiny were the specific interest areas of involvement for each of the ACGT partners, proposals for a revised management model, broadening African involvement in the ACGT network; and principles for equipment-sharing throughout the network.
Participants went on to indicate that there was a distinct need to strengthen the relationships between the partners – with particular emphasis on increasing the ACGT’s presence within those institutions and aggressively pursuing joint funding opportunities. The ACGT’s facilitating role also arose as a strong point of emphasis in this regard, with the Centre’s many achievements over the years cited as a solid foundation on which to base this positioning.
Examples have included the establishment of various facilities at or between UP, the CSIR, UL and ARC Onderstepoort; the establishment and coordination of the South African Malaria Initiative (SAMI) – along with numerous other national and international initiatives/projects; the hosting of workshops and training programmes; and the successful securing of substantial funding since 2002. The ACGT also boasts a host of both formal and informal linkages to a number of other African institutions and initiatives – including the Universities of Namibia, Malawi and Dar es Salaam, BecA, ASARECA, BIO-EARN, FARA and RAEIN-Africa.
While it was agreed that the ACGT had built a strong body of evidence in demonstrating its value, the most pressing need was to translate this value into meaningful terms for each of the partners. It was therefore resolved that, going forward, the Centre would endeavour to identify specific interventions that it could make to address constraints that affected the partners within their own individual contexts while leveraging their collective strengths.
Outcomes of the session include the development of a targeted awareness-raising programme within the ACGT partner institutions and the distribution of a revised strategy document to all relevant parties. Both processes are currently being spearheaded by the ACGT office and are expected to be completed before the end of the year