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[BOGOTÁ] Directors of research centres from across the developing world have agreed to expand a major South-South collaboration initiative, and approved a five-year strategic plan that aims to promote joint projects, capacity building and international collaboration.

The 14th annual meeting of the Coordinating Council of the Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS) took place in Bogotá, Colombia, last month (26–27 May).

"COMSATS has embarked upon a major new initiative, whereby clusters of member states have agreed to work jointly on specific research projects," executive director Imtinan Qureshi told SciDev.Net.

No new funds have been agreed for the project's expansion, but the council called on all member states to start allocating at least two per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to science and technology.

The COMSATS initiative already includes three research groups, one in China and two in Pakistan, working on climate change, natural products, and information and communication technologies.

Now, six new research groups will focus on agriculture, food security and biotechnology; material sciences; mathematical modelling; construction materials; space technology; natural hazards and resources.

Eduardo Campello, general director of Brazil's National Center for Research on Agrobiology, said a proposal for a new agriculture research group will be formalised in the next few months, and that "the idea is to establish more research partnerships; the exchange of researchers and students; and to develop [environmentally] friendly technologies that guarantee an appropriate agricultural productivity".

Eduardo Posada, a Colombian physicist and chair of the coordinating council of the commission, highlighted that the participants felt that countries in the South share challenges, such as fighting tropical diseases and developing sustainable agricultural technologies, that they can collaborate on.

In the near future "we will be able to sell each-other our own technology", Posada told SciDev.Net.

Presentations from eight centres of excellence from Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Turkey provided an opportunity to learn from each other's successes, best practices and opportunities of technology sharing.

"We believe that this component of the meeting provides the most direct mechanism of South–South scientific exchange in real time, interactive mode," said Qureshi.

The meeting also approved a five year strategy (2011–15) to promote collaborative research activities on topics that can have direct relevance to socioeconomic development.

The final communiqué said that capacity building is essential for scientific organisations and resolved to enhance cooperation among research centres, with a special focus on training, technical exchange, workshops, higher education, equipment maintenance, dissemination of knowledge and links with donor agencies.

Link to COMSATS meeting communiqué  [11.4kB]