Celebrating excellence in science, engineering, technology, innovation

The 20th annual National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)-South32 Awards were held on June 28 2018. These are the “Science Oscars”, recognising, celebrating and rewarding excellence in science, engineering, technology (SET) and innovation in South Africa. The awards are the largest and most comprehensive national awards of their kind. Furthermore, the Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane is the awards’ patron.

With this being the 20th anniversary of the NSTF Awards, there was a special award to Dr Xolani Humphrey Mkhwanazi, director and chairman: Phathela Investments (Pty) Ltd. “This first Ukhozi Award is for an essential contribution to the NSTF and, consequently, South Africa’s SET environment,” explains Jansie Niehaus, NSTF executive director.

The NSTF is the non-profit stakeholder body for all SET and innovation organisations in South Africa. It represents the SET community as a single body when lobbying government. It is also an independent collaborative platform that maintains conversations around science.

The NSTF-South32 Awards has associated youth outreach programmes that disseminate SET information to the public. This includes the year-long knowledge transfer process to students and learners called “Share ‘n Dare”.

The NSTF Brilliants programme recognises outstanding matric performance in maths and physical science. Brilliants students take part in the awards ceremony and the SET-related pre-awards programme, which includes a national astronomy tour and a motivational speaker event. The Brilliants programme is further supported by the department of science and technology, with top-up bursary funding.

The NSTF-South32 Awards has a Special Annual Theme Award. This year’s theme is “Sustainable energy for all”. It is aligned to the United Nations Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, which runs from 2014 to 2024.

“The NSTF recognises the importance of business in the SET community. For example, this year the NSTF-South32 Awards research categories are open to anyone thoroughly experienced in research, regardless of whether they have a PhD,” says Niehaus.

She notes that building on business relationships and ensuring that they are represented in the SET community is critical if South Africa wants a true understanding of the SET environment. Beyond that, it is essential to develop links between business, other SET entities and government as a whole.

NSTF 2017/2018 winners

These are the winners’ names. All awards are for outstanding contributions to SET and innovation:

Lifetime Award

Professor Kevin Wall is a professional civil engineer and town planner who focuses on improving service delivery. His work has ranged from skills enhancement and developing guidelines to changing policies and priorities and formulating national-level strategies.

His transdisciplinary approach has had significant impact on residential developments and entrepreneurship models, among other things. He has spent a large part of his life drawing attention to the need for infrastructure maintenance.

He has worked on significant projects, from community to international level.

Special Annual Theme Award: Sustainable Energy for All

Professor Harald Winkler is an internationally-acclaimed researcher and professor at the multi-disciplinary Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town.

His research focus is sustainable energy for all in the context of a just transition to low carbon economies. This includes developing a multi-stakeholder process for informed decision-making around climate policy.

TW Kambule-NSTF Award: Researcher

Professor Etheresia Pretorius is head: department of physiological sciences and director: Applied Morphology Research Centre at Stellenbosch University. Her overarching contribution is to add novel knowledge regarding the origin and pathophysiology of inflammation and abnormal clotting. This includes the conclusion that all non-communicable diseases have a possible bacterial origin.

TW Kambule-NSTF Awards: Emerging Researcher

Wendy Collinson is project executant: Wildlife and Roads Project, Endangered Wildlife Trust. The project works to reduce the negative impacts of transport infrastructure on wildlife, ultimately improving driver safety.

Dr Musa Manzi is senior researcher and director: Seismic Research Centre, school of geosciences, University of Witwatersrand.

He develops and applies mathematical and geophysical techniques to gain a deeper understanding of earth processes. This includes innovative 3D seismic technologies for deep mineral exploration.

Engineering Research Capacity Development Awards (sponsored by Eskom)

Professor Mmantsae Moche Diale is associate professor: department of physics at the University of Pretoria. She researches materials development for applications in semiconductor devices used in light harvesting processes (particularly collecting and storing solar energy). She is driven by the need to take energy from the sun, to lessen the country’s reliance on the grid, and to find a better way of storing the energy collected during the day.

Professor Ian Jandrell is personal professor: School of Electrical and Information Engineering, executive dean: faculty of engineering and the built environment, and joint leader: High Voltage and the Lightning/Electromagnetic Compatibility Research Group at Wits. He focuses on the very specialised research field of high voltage engineering and lightning. His research focus includes finding ways of ensuring the safe and efficient transfer of energy, and making systems optimal to transfer energy.

Management Award

Professor Stephen Tollman is a Wits research professor and head: Division of Health and Population, director: SAMRC/Wits Rural Health and Health Transitions Research Unit, and principal scientist: International Network for the Demographic Evaluation of Populations and their Health, Ghana. He has focused on establishing high-functioning data/research infrastructure for the health and wellbeing of rural populations in South Africa.

NSTF-GreenMatter Award (sponsored by GreenMatter)

Professor Malik Maaza is senior scientist: National Research Foundation Nanosciences LABS, Unisa and Unesco chair. His work has involved numerous innovations that are green and sustainable. This includes developing thermochromic intelligent nanocoating for smart glass windows, which minimises the energy load.

NSTF-Water Research Commission (WRC) Award (sponsored by WRC)

Professor Leslie Petrik is professor: department of chemistry, University of the Western Cape. She has contributed significantly to skills development and innovation in the field of environmental remediation, water treatment, and waste reuse in South Africa, particularly around industrial waste.

Data for Research Award

The South African Social Attitudes Survey is conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Data from this annual survey can be accessed and used to explore and explain the interaction between South Africa’s changing institutions, its political and economic structures, and the attitudes, beliefs and behaviour patterns of its diverse populations.

Innovation Award: Corporate Organisation (sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry)

Professor Keolebogile Shirley Motaung is founder: Global Health Biotech (Pty) Ltd and assistant dean: postgraduate studies, research, innovation and engagement, faculty of science, Tshwane University of Technology. Her research reveals a future of tissue engineering of bone and cartilage that depends on medicinal plants. A cream is being manufactured as an alternative natural anti-inflammatory ointment.

Innovation Award: SMME

The director of SUN Magnetics (Pty) Ltd is Professor Coenrad Johann Fourie from Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Stellenbosch University. His research has resulted in InductEx, a pioneering set of engineering methods and software tools that have changed superconducting and quantum circuit design globally.

NGO Award

The Platinum Incubator is the only small business start-up hub (and NGO) in the world devoted to encouraging budding entrepreneurs to develop world-class products and applications using platinum group metals.

Science Communication Award

The University of Pretoria Institute for Sustainable Malaria Control (UP ISMC) not only contributes to creating a malaria-free Africa through research and advanced technologies, but to targeted communities through innovative communication platforms that promote malaria awareness and prevention.

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