Policy and support actions for Southern African natural product partnership (POL-SABINA)

Challenge
The Southern African Biochemistry and Informatics for Natural Products Network (SABINA) is actively training scientists in the development of natural products, but the capacity, knowledge management systems, supportive policies and understanding of the requirements of the full value chain of natural products are not in place (either institutionally, nationally or regionally) to support the desired outputs of excellent science and technology that can be translated into sustainable development and economic growth.

Focus
The project will create an environment for natural product research and development (R&D) in countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) that will result in better networking and sharing of information amongst scientists in the SABINA network and higher quality and more relevant R&D, which will support the translation of R&D into products for sustainable development and economic growth. This will involve the development of an advanced web-based knowledge management system for sharing of natural products research information amongst the project participants, support for exchange visits between them, provision of training in a variety of topics that will enhance research effectiveness and translation into meaningful outputs, and support for the development of necessary policies and legislation.

Rationale
Successful natural product R&D leading to implementation and job creation requires appropriately trained scientists who understand the innovation process and are linked with all relevant stakeholders. More success can be achieved through a regional networked approach than by individual scientists working in isolation. Additionally, plants with potential for product development are often indigenous to more than one country in the region, necessitating harmonised policies towards intellectual property (including the use of biological resources, benefit sharing, indigenous knowledge systems, plant breeders’ rights, etc). The countries in the SADC region are at different stages in the development of appropriate policies. Therefore, there is a need to engage with policy makers in the countries concerned to ensure that an enabling environment is put in place to facilitate the development of natural products. This enabling environment should be appropriate for adoption by the SADC region as a whole and, therefore, it is necessary to have an intellectual property policy at SADC level.

Method
The project is specifically designed to improve the quality and relevance of natural product research, to develop an advanced web-based knowledge management system for sharing of natural products research information amongst the partners and to develop relevant policies that can be adopted not only in the individual countries involved, but also at the SADC level. This will be achieved through:

  • Building a research network that spans the borders of four countries and that makes effective use of technology to overcome geographic constraints;
  • Supporting exchange visits between network partners to enhance collaboration;
  • Creating a virtual research environment (VRE), populating it with content and repositories that would enhance researcher efficiency and putting policies, procedures and systems in place that would allow for the curation and preservation of digital research output for future generations of researchers;
  • Strengthening the SABINA network through training activities;
  • Developing eResearch capacity amongst scientists and aligning appropriate skills in the staff that need to support these scientists;
  • Developing an implementation plan for at least one pilot project in the SABINA network;
  • Providing a forum to link the SABINA network to policy makers, farmers and entrepreneurs;
  • Providing a demonstration facility so that the potential application of the research can be demonstrated to farmers and entrepreneurs;
  • Developing an intellectual property (IP) management policy for the SADC region as a whole, with the support of NEPAD/SANBio (New Partnership for Africa's Development / Southern African Network of Biological Sciences).

Outputs

  • Framework on access to biological resources and management of intellectual property rights (IPR) in SADC.
  • Research network that spans the borders of four countries.
  • Virtual Research Environment (VRE).
  • Forum to link the SABINA network to policy makers, farmers and entrepreneurs.
  • Demonstration facility to demonstrate the potential application of research to farmers and entrepreneurs.
  • An intellectual property (IP) management policy for the SADC region.

Outcomes

  • Improved networking and information exchange amongst natural products scientists.
  • Improved quality of natural products science.
  • Improved access to research funding.
  • Improved fund management.
  • Research is better linked to market need and integrated into the value chain.
  • Applications of research demonstrated to farmers and entrepreneurs.
  • Increased capacity of scientists to undertake meaningful research in a conducive environment.
  • Small-scale farmers enabled to diversify their crops and gain greater added value.
  • Holders of indigenous knowledge respected and rewarded for their knowledge.
  • Local entrepreneurs encouraged to start new enterprises based on natural products.
  • Consumers benefitting from products with enhanced nutritional or health-promoting properties or that have specific medical applications.
Grant: FED/2009/218786
Project duration: 36 months (from 10/11/2009 to 09/11/2012)- CLOSED
EC funding: EUR 945,352.67
Total budget: EUR 1,112,179.61
Project contact:

Prof. Jane Morris
University of Pretoria
African Centre for Gene Technologies (ACGT)
P.O Box 75011
Lynnwood Ridge
Pretoria 0040
South Africa
Tel: +27-12-420.6007
Fax: +27-12-420.6103
E-mail: ejanemorris [at] gmail.com
Web: http://www.acgt.co.za

POL-SABINA