Innovation has long been recognised as a driving force of multidimensional development. Cutting-edge research, scientific progress and original ideas in the domains of science, technology and industry constitute advancements that can widely improve the well-being of our societies.
Innovation results from linking fresh perspectives, the latest methods and the will to address the leading questions of our time. In the context of international and multilateral cooperation and in consideration of these pressing issues, innovation in key thematic areas of the region, such as water, health and energy, can address environmental problems, alleviate social inequalities, and significantly contribute to sustainable development and inclusive growth.
In line with COSIMENA’s goal to tackle today’s global challenges by fostering scientific collaboration, the DAAD Office Cairo, in cooperation with the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport, organised the first “COSIMENA Summer School” under the title “Training for Innovation – How science and technology can contribute to a better life for all”. The Summer School aims at training young researchers to become adopt innovators in their respective fields.
The 30 young researchers and experts who participated in the two-week Summer School came from 9 different countries among the MENA Region – Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Jordan, Libya, Syria and Lebanon – as well as Germany.
The Summer School was divided into the 3 main clusters of Innovation, Water and Health, in addition to a “Self-Marketing” DKA Module led by Dr Heba Salama, Alexandria University.
Participants were divided into 5 working groups to share their experiences and familiarise themselves with the different methodologies, policies and strategies adopted in each country. Each cluster ended with a joint presentation summarising what each group had learned and what knowledge they could take back to benefit their home countries. It is worth mentioning that different trainers introduced each cluster: Dr Annika Arnold was responsible for Innovation and Energy, Dr Eng. Stefan Panglisch, Dr Ashraf Hilal and Dr Meike Lenzen presented Water, and Dr Mohamed Nour tackled the Health cluster.
By the end of the Summer School, participants had gathered insights into membrane technology, wastewater treatment and Nexus, as well as being introduced to new information and international points of view, allowing them to understand the concept of innovation in a Multi-Level-Perspective context.
The working groups presented different innovative projects with respect to water solutions that could be implemented in the MENA Region: a New Ceramic Filter, an Integrated Micro-System for grey water processing, Green Villages, an Integrated wastewater treatment system and the development of smart cities to create sustainable communities.
Ms Louise Sarant, an environment and science journalist and moderator of the closing session, gave the participants the advice, “think big but start small”. The participants’ main vision should be developing innovative projects, but upon implementation they should start with the small ideas that are actually practicable.
The participants came to the conclusion that each country has its own challenges and opportunities in terms of its innovation and progress. However, most agreed that there are common challenges in the MENA countries, such as high unemployment rates, low investment in R&D, high population growth rates and lack of good infrastructure, etc.
Challenges are not only faced in developing countries but also in developed countries like Germany. Germany is facing other kinds of challenges since it has a lower level of digitalization than other leading countries and a slow adaptation process in the educational sector.
One of the best outcomes of the COSIMENA Summer School is the social network built among the participants. Having 30 participants from 10 different countries enriched the interdisciplinary aspect of the Summer School. This network established among the participants will be sustained through the social media channels with which they will continue to share their experiences and maintain cooperative relationships.