The hosting of the 9th ACE Impact Regional Workshop and joint ACE Impact-Morocco partnership forum in Marrakech Morocco from 29th May to 2nd June 2023, was unique because Morocco is not one of the ACE Impact hosting countries. Morocco was identified to host these events because the country is strategically positioned to share its knowledge for the benefit of the ACE Impact Centers. The universities in Morocco are arguably more advanced in terms of their infrastructure, research and learning facilities and staffing as compared to most of their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa.
The partnership forum took place from 31st May to the 2nd of June 2023 and involved plenary sessions, thematic breakout sessions and field visits to selected educational and research institutions in Morocco. The main objectives of the ACE Impact-Morocco partnership forum were to:
- Advance cross-country partnerships and networks between ACE Impact centers and Moroccan higher education institutions and private sector stakeholders, and
- Present opportunities for deep dive training and capacity building on the topic of moving research from the lab to the market.
The Thematic Breakout Sessions on the 31sy May were organized to initiate and foster partnerships by providing opportunities for participating researchers to share their research fields and identify opportunities for collaboration. The nine sessions which were facilitated by the ACE Impact experts were focused on Agriculture, Health, ICT, Education, Engineering, Energy & Environment, Water, Mining and Transport and Logistics.
The Engineering, ICT, Transport, Logistics and Urban Development partnership discussions revealed that the ACE Impact Centers and Moroccan Universities were keen to collaborate in the areas of digital technologies, that is artificial intelligence, big data processing, natural language processing, blockchain, and robotics. Additional priority areas for collaboration were agreed to be in joint faculty research publications, and grants; joint faculty and student exchange, supervision, and training; sharing of teaching/learning materials and best practices; joint organisation of PhD summer schools, seminars, webinars, scientific and technical workshops and conferences and collaborations in implementing entrepreneurial and innovative initiatives.
The Environment and Energy thematic group discussion between the ACE Impact Centers and the Moroccan Universities revealed that their highest interest for collaboration is in renewable energy enhancement, battery development, energy storage optimization, photovoltaic, electricity network management, green hydrogen, energy efficiency, pollution control and risk analysis.
The agriculture cluster of ACE Impact Centers and Moroccan Institutions agreed to cooperate through student exchanges, PhD training, seminars, and common research projects. They also agreed to collaborate in communication, sharing cross information and common advertising. The ACE Impact Food for West Africa network (Food4WA) and the Africa Initiative at UPM6 agreed to initiate the linkage between Morocco Institutions and ACE Impact centers. Immediate practical outcomes of the agriculture cluster included the invitation to Morocco Institutions to participate in the international conference on drylands in Kano September 2023. A connection was made between the Centre d’Excellence Regional sur les Productions Pastorales (CERPP) and the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary to collaborate in animal embryology and artificial insemination.
The health thematic group agreed that their joint areas of cooperation were in idea development, building networks, business development, faculty exchanges and student exchanges. This cluster agreed on the research themes of infectious diseases, pharmaceutical science, drug development, herbal medicine, food safety, nursing, reproductive, maternal, and infant health, and genetic medicine.
The ACE Impact centers also benefitted from mini workshops that were organized on commercialization of research results. These were parallel workshops to train participants on tools in value creation; what the journey from patent to products to market involves; and how to strengthen commercialization in the university ecosystem to attract investors and funders from both the private and public sectors. The ACE Impact Centers also had the opportunity to share on how they are currently handling the commercialization of their research results. The discussion knowledge sharing addressed models of technology transfer that are working well and provided best practices in planning, setting up private sector ventures and fostering public private partnerships.
The outcomes from the joint ACE Impact-Morocco partnership forum include the well-articulated proposed areas of collaboration, improved awareness of the research focus of the ACE Impact Centers, exposure to various models for research commercialization and value creation and physical exposure to selected Moroccan Universities that are doing well in the areas of research, teaching, and impactful collaborations.