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UNIVEN aims to be among the top ten universities in South Africa by 2020

The University of Venda’s (UNIVEN) Directorate of Research and Innovation held its Maiden Univen Research and Innovation High Level Stakeholders Forum from 23 to 25 July 2017 at The Ranch Hotel, Polokwane.



The forum was preceded by an informal meeting and it was officially opened by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Professor Jan Crafford. The forum was held under the theme: ‘Carving the Way Forward in Research and Innovation at UNIVEN’.

Prof Crafford said “Over the past five years, we have experienced an exponential growth in our research outputs. We have made great strides in our teaching and learning and community engagement. We have established ourselves as a University that produces quality research output.”




The Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic, Prof Jan Crafford (left) during the official opening of the Maiden Univen Research and Innovation High Level Stakeholders Forum.

The forum was set to appraise the achievements and shortcomings of research, innovation, technology transfer, and postgraduate enterprise at UNIVEN from 2012 to date. It also served as a singular platform in developing resolutions for the effective and efficient administration and management of future research and innovation, technology transfer and postgraduate enterprise at UNIVEN.

The Director of Research and Innovation, Senior Professor Georges-Ivo Ekosse said that by 2020 UNIVEN should be among the top ten universities in the country in terms of research output and it is the University’s primary objective. “We want to see an increase of doctoral degrees at UNIVEN. We want this dream to be realised despite all odds,” said Prof Ekosse.



Today we are having 26 National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researchers and by 2020 we should have 35 and most importantly we want to have the number of female rated researchers increased – Senior Prof Georges Ekosse.

He further said that the research will mainly focus on the current university niche areas such as African Heritage; Earth Systems and the Environment; Human and Animal Health; Law and Education; and Sustainable and Rural Development. “South Africa is spearheading other African countries when it comes to research and is the giant of Africa in terms of knowledge generation. With regards to publications he reported that the University was performing above national average which is commendable. In 2012 UNIVEN was at 127.88 research publications units and in 2015 we were at 271 research publications units. It shows that we have grown exponentially in terms of publications,” added Prof Ekosse.

He also pleaded with the colleagues from the research councils to assist UNIVEN in achieving its dream. According to the research output (this includes research


publications, masters and doctoral students who graduate), in 2015 UNIVEN achieved 0.94 per capita research output. “In 2016 we were having 320 active researchers compared to 285 in 2015. Every member of academic/researcher in the university must be an active researcher. We want 60% of our staff to have PhDs in 2020, and 75% by 2030” said Prof Ekosse.



Some of the NRF rated researchers posing for a photo

He also outlined that adjunct and visiting professors increased from 50 in 2015 to 58 in 2016. “Today we are having 26 National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researchers and by 2020 we should have 35 and most importantly we want to have the number of female rated researchers increase,” added Prof Ekosse. Senior Prof Ekosse reported about a number of activities organised within his directorate such as Research Indaba, Research Leadership Workshop, Grants Proposal Writing, Postgraduates Gathering, and Becoming NRF Rated Researcher. He indicated that in 2016 the directorate introduced a workshop for honouring honours students. He also highlighted about the research collaboration

with Walter Sisulu University of which the first International Research conference between the two universities was held in East London hosted by WSU in 2015 where 450 delegates attended. In 2016 it was hosted by the University of Venda and over 500 delegates attended.



The Director of Communications and Marketing, Mr Takalani Dzaga announcing the upcoming First Pan African Universities International Research Congress to be held in Kenya.

It was in this forum when the Director of Communications and Marketing, Mr Takalani Dzaga announced that this year (2017), the First Pan African Universities International Research Congress on Knowledge Generation and Dissemination in Africa will be held in Kenya and this is a collaboration among five universities, namely: University of Venda (UNIVEN), and Walter Sisulu University (WSU) - South Africa; Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST: host) - Kenya, Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)- Botswana and University of Ibadan (UI)-Nigeria. There will be a number of other universities that will participate in this continental endeavor. The Call is out and researchers are encouraged to submit their abstracts.



Mr Vusi Malele from the National Department of Science and Technology (DST).

“We want UNIVEN to be active in research”. Those were the words by Mr Vusi Malele from the National Department of Science and Technology (DST). He said that their plan is to make science and technology a driving force in enhancing productivity, economic growth and socio-economic development. “We want to increase the number of active researchers and enhance research and innovation in order to improve South Africa’s international competitiveness as a producer of scientific knowledge and innovation in support of national socio-economic development,” he added.

Mr Malele advised staff at UNIVEN to ensure that their research address issues affecting the University’s immediate communities and should have a positive impact. As he continued, Malele said “Most of our researchers in the country are old and predominantly male, therefore, due to reaching mandatory retirement age, they will soon leave the system. We want to inject young blood who can stay for at least 30 years in the system”.

He also said that they leverage on international opportunities. “UNIVEN has an opportunity to collaborate with other universities”. He further said that they aim to unveil those with PhDs but not active researchers and provide them with some support to become active and produce some Research Development and Innovation (RDI) outputs. He encouraged UNIVEN staff to never get tired of applying for funding including for strategic programmes despite receiving negative feedback several times. “You should grow your own timber through amongst others internship programme,” he added.



The Science and Technology Attaché at the Italian Embassy in Pretoria, from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Support and Promotion of Science and

Technology in South Africa, Dr Pierguido Sarti, said that their Units work on bilateral promotion of scientific research, technology and innovation and also multilateral internationalization of research, science and space.

He said that Italy is also part of the Horizon 2020. He told the forum about the call for application for first joint research and mobility projects for 2018 – 2020 which is currently open and will close on 07 September 2017. He further said that the ITA- SA co-funding of Joint Research Projects aims to support effective research and human capital development, increase the focus of the call on market related innovation and technology transfer, encourage partnerships and cooperation with the private sector and support mobility of early stage researchers.



“We want to increase percentage of academic staff with PhD from 43% to 75% and to redress discrimination in higher education,” said Mr Jimmy Raven from the National Research Foundation (NRF). “Securing a research grant is becoming more and more competitive every year resulting from an ever-diminishing pool of


funds. The research funding from traditional sources will likely be even harder to come by in the coming years due to the ongoing economic instability around the world. Most of the research conducted at universities nationwide is performed with funds from sponsoring agencies that support research, training, and service through various agreements,” he added.



The Head of the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), Dr Kerry Faul, said that Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Act applies to all “recipients” of public funding, received from a funding agency. She further said that the changes brought by IPR Act states that the rights to the IP are legislated and are applicable to all forms of IP which emanate from publicly financed R&D. This provision is enacted through a Presidential Proclamation. “UNIVEN has senior management which supports innovation. You are very blessed,” she concluded.




The Director of DST-NRF Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS), University of KwaZulu-Natal Professor Hassan Kaya, said that their vision is to be a world rallying hub for IKS research, postgraduate training, networking, knowledge generation and community engagement. He further said “We want to increase IKS publication output in DHET accredited journals across all CIKS partner institutions involving postgraduate students, IK-holders and practitioners. We also want to Increase in number of IKS postgraduate students across CIKS partner institutions (55%) and conducting postgraduates and supervisor’s workshops on IKS Epistemologies and Research Methodologies.” It should be noted that UNIVEN is one of the five partners of the DST-NRF-CIKS Hub currently housed at UKZN. The other three universities are Limpopo and Northwest, and UNISA.

“The principal aim of the Water Research Act (WRA), (Act No. 34 of 1971 as amended) is to provide for the promotion of research in connection with water affairs,” said Dr Stanley Liphadzi from the Water Research Commission (WRC).



Dr Stanley Liphadzi from the Water Research Commission (WRC).

He also said that they want to have a highly informed water decision-making through science and technology at all levels, in all stakeholder groups, and innovative water solutions through research and development for South Africa, Africa and the world. “We want innovation to be implemented, but we need partners to achieve that. Our behaviour should change in using water,” he added.



Dr Tshepo Malefetse of Mintek said that they focus on all aspects of minerals processing and beneficiation, with the exception of iron- and steel-making. Their core business involves research and development of efficient mineral processing technologies, value added products, services, promote the mineral based economies of rural, marginalised communities and developing human capital.

He further said that they are focusing on strategic areas of energy and water efficiency, environmental impact and waste treatment. “We are shifting our structure and emphasis to support existing mine operational improvements rather than technologies aimed at new projects. We are having strategic partnerships to access research funding,” he added.




Dr Refiloe Zwane from the Office of the Vice President of South African Medical Research Council (SA MRC) presented on the state of health sciences research in South Africa. She said that SA MRC is building a healthy nation through research and innovation. “We want to improve the nation’s health and quality of life through promoting and conducting relevant and responsive health research,” she added. She further said that the quadruple burden of diseases are maternal, newborn and child health; HIV/AIDS and TB; Non-Communicable disease; violence and injury. “Our goal is to generate knowledge using SAMRC financial support,” she added.


She further urged disadvantaged universities and researchers to apply for funding. “We also make our information accessible to the communities,” she said.



“We reduce poverty, grow economy, create jobs and improve quality of education,” said the Deputy CEO for Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Prof Leickness Simbayi. He said that the HSRC’s research strategy continues seeking to enhance the analysis of current forms, patterns and trajectories of poverty and inequality. He further said that from 2016-2020 the HRSC focuses on the urgent questions of the social determinants surrounding the persistence of poverty and the deepening of inequality. “We will also put an emphasis on building the capacity for high-quality problem-identification, and high-quality solution-focused research which will assist in understanding and engaging with the questions of poverty and inequality,” said Prof Simbayi. The HSRC’s research strategy will continue to enhance the analysis of current forms, patterns and trajectories of poverty and inequality; improve understanding of the drivers, dynamics and structural constraints underlying the contemporary situation; and explore the opportunities, triggers and tools for transforming current pathways and processes through action by government and other social institutions.



Presenting on Environmental and Soil Sciences Research in South Africa, Dr Fhatuwani Ramagwede from the Council of Geosciences (CGS), said that they have a mandate to basic geoscience research into the nature and origin of rocks. He also said that environmental research is to identify, control, or eliminate sources of pollutants, suspect elements (including nanoparticles) that are hazardous to the environment and its inhabitants. “It generally involves assessing new and existing data and also analysing data from air, water, rock, and soil samples. The outcome is also used to develop plans to mitigate and if possible prevent environmental problems that affect surrounding communities,” he added.

He went on to say “The role of CGS in environmental research is mitigation and if possible prevention of environmental problems that affect surrounding communities”. Ramagwede also said that environmental challenges include dust from mine dumps which negatively impacts communities.



Onderstepoort Biological Products’ s (OBP), Dr Bethuel Nthangeni, said that OBP develops, manufactures and distributes animal vaccines and other biological products that pertain to animals. “We want to be a global pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturer and distributor of animal health products,” he added.

He also said that if UNIVEN has the machine and idea to produce vaccine, they are there to help them. “We want to improve animal health and animal production, access to infrastructure and vaccine expertise,” he concluded.



“We do research in scientific and industrial development and to better the lives of people in South Africa,” these were the words by Dr Daniel Visser from Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He said that CSIR partners with government entities, education institutions, state-owned companies and the private sector in developing human capital, stimulating scientific and industrial development, and driving community upliftment. “Our research contributes to building communities. We also offer bursaries, internships, postdoctoral, learner support and in-service training,” he added.




The forum also had four breakaway sessions that had deliberations that would guide in developing resolutions towards the enhancement of Research and Innovation at UNIVEN. Session one focused on grants, funding and management; Session two focused on research knowledge growth; Session three focused on administration and management of research and innovative programmes; and session four focused on tools of the trade-research infrastructure.

The sessions were chaired by Dr Stanley Liphadzi, Dr Pierguido Sarti, Prof Pascal Bessong and Professor Hassan Kaya.

At the end of day three, resolutions from UNIVEN Research and Innovation High Level Forum were crafted and will be tabled for consideration at appropriate University committee.




The Director of Library Services, Mrs Mushoni Mulaudzi proposed a vote of thanks and appreciated presenters from different research councils whose presence contributed immensely in the success of the this Maiden UNIVEN Research High Level Stakeholders Forum. In her conclusion, she urged organisations present to continue to support UNIVEN.

 


Issued by: Department of Communications and Marketing
University of Venda
Tel: 015 962 8525
Date: 01 August 2017