Celebrating excellence in science, engineering, technology and innovation

The NSTF Awards trophy is a feather in the winner's cap

The NSTF Awards trophy is a feather in the winner's cap

The 18th annual NSTF Awards, now called the NSTF-South32 Awards, was held on 30 June 2016. The awards recognise, celebrate and reward excellence in science, engineering, technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa.

What makes these awards special?

These are the largest and most comprehensive national awards of their kind. The nominations process is open to everyone, including the public. The adjudication is by a representative panel, ensuring that academia, industry and other stakeholders are part of the process.

“There is also a special award that is aligned to the United Nations’ International Year of Pulses,” says Jansie Niehaus, executive director of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF), a collaborative, consultative and lobbying organisation that represents all SET sectors in South Africa.

To a large extent, the awards recognise the different processes needed for a system of innovation. Pure and applied research is recognised, as well as research and development leading to product and process development.

Titanium trophy

“Last year, a new trophy design was unveiled. It’s an embodiment of the NSTF Awards’ slogan: ‘Today’s research… tomorrow’s innovation’,” says Niehaus. “The helix form represents the upward momentum that sustains the continual efforts of scientific endeavour, as well as the combined efforts that are needed for successful outcomes. And, of course, it’s a ‘feather in your cap’ to receive a trophy.”

The trophy also celebrates innovation through the process of its manufacture. It is made by additive manufacturing (a 3D printing technology) and with advanced material (titanium). It came about through collaboration between the NSTF, CSIR and the department of science and technology (DST).

Youth outreach

The NSTF Awards effort includes annual youth outreach programmes, such as the NSTF Brilliants Programme, which recognises outstanding matric performance in maths and physical science.

Another youth outreach programmes is the Share ‘n Dare programme, which creates platforms, such as radio and public talks, where the NSTF-South32 winners inspire the youth throughout the year.

NSTF 2015/2016 Winners

All the following awards are for an outstanding contribution to SET and innovation:

Lifetime Award by an individual over a period of 15 years or more

Prof Bert Klumperman is considered a world leader in polymer chemistry. He is a distinguished professor of polymer science in the department of chemistry and polymer science, Stellenbosch University, and research chair in advanced macromolecular architectures. He investigates nano-structured materials for biomedical applications, conducts mechanistic and kinetic studies of radical polymerisation processes, and performs exploratory polymer chemistry for advanced applications.

Special Award in Crop Science and Food Security

Prof Dave Berger is pioneering crop biotechnology research for food security in South Africa. He is a Professor at the department of plant and soil sciences, University of Pretoria, working in molecular plant pathology. He focuses on the genetics of how crops interact with pathogens.

TW Kambule-NSTF Awards – Research and its outputs over a period of up to 15 years, by an individual

Prof Crick Lund is pioneering the development of policies and services designed to address mental health in low and middle-income (LMI) countries. Since 2011, he has headed the Programme for Improving Mental Healthcare, creating mental healthcare solutions for primary healthcare in LMI settings.

Prof Bhekisipho Twala is the director of the Institute for Intelligent Systems and professor of artificial intelligence and statistical sciences at the faculty of engineering and the built environment, University of Johannesburg. His work looks at making decisions with incomplete information, using artificial intelligence techniques for predicting outcomes and classification.

TW Kambule-NSTF Awards – Research and its outputs by an emerging researcher

Dr Tolu Oni’s research is driven by the need to find the disconnect between healthcare, urbanisation and rising rates of infection. Her work addresses the challenges facing people and healthcare in the urban setting, and she aims to develop interventions that improve health in a holistic way. She is a senior lecturer at the school of public health and family medicine, University of Cape Town.

Dr Sudesh Sivarasu works on changing the fact that around 95% of medical devices are imported into South Africa, at great cost. He has developed a number of medical devices, filed five patent family applications and been granted three medical device patents. He focuses on creating devices that fit local requirements. He is a senior lecturer in biomedical engineering, University of Cape Town.

Engineering capacity development over the last 5-10 years (sponsored by Eskom)

Prof Susan Harrison is pioneering the way in the field of bioprocess engineering. As director of the centre for bioprocess engineering research and SARChI chair in bioprocess engineering, Harrison integrates the chemical engineering, mineral processing and biotechnology disciplines. The focus is on a sustainable bio-economy, based on maximising renewable materials and resource productivity while minimising waste burdens, including the wastewater burden.

Prof Thokozani Majozi is the NRF/DST chair in sustainable process engineering in the school of chemical and metallurgical engineering, University of the Witwatersrand. His research is premised on the development of sustainable scientific and systematic water management techniques in chemical plants and facilities.

Research capacity development over the last 5-10 years, by a researcher

Prof Peter Dunsby is the co-director of the Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravity Centre and professor of cosmology in the department of mathematics and applied mathematics, University of Cape Town. He was the programme director of the National Astronomy and Space Science Programme, regarded as South Africa’s flagship programme in astronomy, cosmology and the space sciences.

Management and related activities over the last 5-10 years, by an individual

Prof Suprakas Sinha Ray is chief researcher and director of the DST-CSIR National Centre for Nano-structured Materials (NCNSM). The NCNSM plays a leading role in the development of nano-science and nanotechnology research and development in the country and the development of skilled South African nanotechnology researchers and scientists.

NSTF-GreenMatter Award towards achieving biodiversity conservation, environmental sustainability and a greener economy, by an individual or an organisation

The Mondi Ecological Networks Programme (MENP) follows the principle of optimal agricultural production while maintaining biodiversity and ecosystems. This is done through large-scale ecological networks (natural areas left aside between forestry plantations or agriculture). MENP is based at the department of conservation ecology and entomology, Stellenbosch University, and is considered a world leader for forestry.

Communication for outreach and creating awareness, by an individual or team

Prof Jan Smit’s academic educational repertoire extends over 53 years. He was involved in establishing the Sediba Project, played a role in formulating national and provincial policies, and has worked extensively in science centres. He is currently the manager of the Science Centre at Potchefstroom Campus, North West University.

Research leading to innovation through a corporate organisation, by an individual or a team

Advanced Casting Technologies (ACT) at the CSIR is developing solutions and platforms for the South African manufacturing industry. It’s using its expertise to establish an industry, boost local manufacturing, create international links and positively impact on economic activity.

Research leading to innovation through an SMME

Umvoto Africa researches and crafts sustainable geoscientific and technological solutions which address resource, environmental, social and economic concerns. It consults in integrated water resource management, contamination and remediation studies, education and training, process facilitation and ecological risk management studies.

Non-governmental organisation including for technology transfer or education and training activities

SmartXchange, an SMME incubator, is garnering national and global attention. Based in Durban KwaZulu-Natal, SmartXchange focuses on the media, information, communication technology and electronics (MICTe) sector. Its mandate is to identify and assist in developing quality MICTe SMMEs and to build a pool of skilled MICTe workers.