Celebrating science, engineering, technology and innovation excellence

The NSTF trophy

The NSTF trophy

The NSTF-South32 Awards recognise, celebrate and reward excellence in science, engineering, technology (SET) and innovation in SA. These are the largest and most comprehensive national awards of their kind.

The associated youth outreach programmes ensure that the message of the awards continues throughout the year through sponsorship from the Carl & Emily Fuchs Foundation.

“Share ‘n Dare” creates platforms such as radio and public talks, where the winners inspire youth. The NSTF Brilliants programme recognises outstanding matric performance in maths and physical science. The department of science and technology (DST) will be providing top-up funding to a number of Brilliants students.

Included in the Brilliants activities is a tour to a SET-related facility. This year, Brilliants students went on a national astronomy tour sponsored by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) South Africa. SKA is working on making its sites more tourist friendly. This aligns with the United Nations declaring 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The NSTF has a special award for SET contributions to sustainable tourism for development. The links between science and sustainable tourism are many, from tourism research and environmental protection to “science tourism” such as eco-tourism, paleo-tourism and astro-tourism.

“The NSTF recognises that SET is continually evolving and that new areas come to the fore. The NSTF-South32 Awards respond to this, recognising new areas such as data for research. This award is a first in South Africa,” 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.

The following are the 2017 winners.

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

Professor Nicolas Johannes Beukes is the director of the DST-National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence for Mineral and Energy, Resource Analysis, department of geology at the University of Johannesburg. He is considered a world leader in the study of iron and manganese ore deposits and the nature of early earth environments.

Special Award for Sustainable Tourism for Development

Professor Melville Saayman is research director of Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society at North West University (NWU). His research examines tourism economics and management in nature-based tourism, event management and leisure and recreation, with a strong focus on tourist expenditure analysis, poverty alleviation and capacity building.

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

Epidemiologist Professor Nancy Phaswana-Mafuya, her team, the World Health Organisation, and the national department of health conducted the national, large-scale Study on Global AGEing and Adult Health (SAGE Wave 1) in South Africa. Phaswana-Mafuya is research director at the Human Sciences Research Council and an honourary professor at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Professor Alta Schutte is unit director: South African Medical Research Council Unit on Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease. She holds the DST/NRF South African Research Chair: Early Detection and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Africa at the faculty of health sciences, NWU. She is also the professor in physiology for the Hypertension in Africa Research Team, NWU. Schutte looks at identifying early predictors of hypertension in South Africa.

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

Dr Robyn Pickering, the University of Cape Town (UCT)-based isotope geochemist, has successfully adapted uranium-lead dating techniques to provide the first set of direct ages for the caves in which early human fossils were found in South Africa. Her work has changed the way this record is viewed globally.

Professor John Ele-Ojo Ataguba, a public health researcher, is an associate professor in the Health Economics Unit, school of public health and family medicine, faculty of health sciences at UCT. He focuses on a comprehensive analysis of overall health inequalities and how they relate to
poverty.

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

Professor Diane Hildebrandt is director of the Material and Process Synthesis Research Unit and professor of chemical engineering at Unisa. She and her team find and implement solutions to global challenges such as energy shortages, carbon dioxide emissions, global warming and waste disposal.

Professor Ochieng Aoyi is director of the Centre for Renewable Energy and Water at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and Head of the VUT department of chemical engineering. He focuses on water research and building capacity in engineering to broaden studies into water use and management.

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

Professor Colleen Downs is a university fellow and professor at the school of life sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal. She holds an NRF SARChI Research Chair in Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. She focuses on how land use and climate change influence the physiology and behaviour of birds, reptiles and mammals, as well as on science education and developing research capacity.

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

The University of Witwatersrand’s school of physics is rated in the top 1% in the field of physics worldwide. Its head, Professor João Rodrigues, is largely responsible for enabling the school to achieve this position.

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

Professor George Ekama, professor of water quality engineering, UCT, researches ways to keep South Africa’s water clean — in municipal and industrial wastewater treatment. He developed the biological nitrogen and phosphorous removal activated sludge system, adopted into the International Water Association Activated Sludge Models 1 and 2.

NSTF-Water Research Commission Award: for sustainable water management, knowledge generation and solutions

Professor Bhekie Mamba is the executive dean, college of science, engineering and technology at Unisa. He researches nanotechnology-based systems for sustainably providing safe and clean water to disadvantaged communities. Innovations include the Silver Impregnated Porous Pot filter for treating wastewater at household level.

Data for Research Award by advancing the availability, management and use of data for research

DataFirst, a research unit and data service based at UCT, provides researchers with online access to survey and administrative microdata from South Africa and other African countries. It has become the leading social science data archive in Africa .

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

Professor Eugene Cloete has pioneered water nanotechnology applications including his patented “tea bag” water purification filter, named one of 10 world-changing ideas by Scientific American (2010). He is vice-rector: research, innovation and postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch University.

Research leading to innovation in an SMME

CenGen, a privately-owned company, provides molecular genetic services to agricultural industries. The company’s flagship research project is investigating cloning the first wheat disease-resistant gene in South Africa.

NGO, including for technology transfer or training activities

Mobile Agri Skills Development and Training’s incubation process helps emerging farmers generate agricultural produce on a small-scale commercial basis. It includes training, helping farmers gain access to productive land and equipment, and assisting with cost-effective purchasing.

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

The DST/NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials conducts research into strong materials. Their aim is to attract students and communicate the importance of their research, and science and engineering as a whole. The communication programme is extensive and includes an annual competition for grade 10 learners.