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[JOHANNESBURG] The agreement reached at the World Summit on Sustainable Development is to lead to increased funding for collaborative scientific programmes between developing countries and the European Union (EU).

The action plan agreed at the Summit will promote new sources of funding specifically for environmentally clean technologies, and 'centres of excellence' within the developing world.

According to Adi Paterson, acting deputy director-general of the South African department of Science and Technology, these two provisions of the agreement will allow developing countries to access funds from overseas development budgets, rather than being restricted to their own smaller budgets set aside for science and technology.

In particular, he said, developing nations would be able to seek funding from the European Development Fund, which has nearly €10 billion in its coffers that it has been unable to spend.

Paterson was speaking on Monday (2 September) at a meeting in Johannesburg organised jointly by the European Commission (EC) and the South African department of Science and Technology.

Christian Patermann, director of the EC research programme on environment and sustainable development, said at the meeting that the Sixth Research Framework Programme — which covers the EU's research and development spending for four years starting in 2003 — would provide significantly more opportunities for collaboration between Europe and developing countries.

About €600 million would be earmarked for co-operative programmes with developing countries, Newly Independent States and countries on the Mediterranean Rim, he said. Half of this would be for targeted programmes in specific research areas, and half for more basic science. In addition, scientists from these three categories of countries would also be eligible as partners for mainstream EC funding, for which €13 billion is available.

Patermann stressed that EC funding would continue to be directed at joint research proposals by partners from the EU and the three other categories, but that 'centres of excellence' within developing countries would also be eligible to apply for funds.

Ed Quilty, director of science in government in the UK Office of Science and Technology, said that creating a climate of academic excellence in developing countries was important to prevent the brain drain from such regions. South Africa is keen to identify and support such centres of excellence, according to Paterson.