On Monday, 25 October 2021, the University of Venda (UNIVEN) hosted delegations from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the South African Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to engage on the possible collaborations and funding of research projects. This workshop took place at the University’s Research Conference Centre.
In his opening and welcome address, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni said even though majority of our students are undergraduates, there are lot of areas of possible collaborations, especially on research and entrepreneurship. He mentioned that the University is moving towards the direction being an entrepreneurial University. Dr Nthambeleni highlighted that UNIVEN strives to provide relevant solutions to the surrounding communities and the country at large with the research that we conduct as a University. “This University has number of NRF rated researchers and we are pleased with that achievement. Our postdoctoral fellowship also continues to make us proud. Even though we are a historically disadvantaged University, we always produce a lot of PhD graduates”.
When wrapping up the workshop, Dr Nthambeleni said this institution has the capacity to collaborate and has energetic staff and students who are active researchers. “We are ready to collaborate on the identified fields of possible collaboration and we will do what needs to be done to ensure that our students and staff could benefit from this collaboration.”
When setting the scene, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Postgraduate Studies, Prof Nosisi Feza gave a brief background of the area and possible areas where further research could be conducted. Prof Feza also mentioned that UNIVEN is an engaged scholarship University that works with communities for their benefit. “Our scholars who lead in engaged scholarships are very hands-on and that is what we pride ourselves with. Our assets are: leading scholars in engaged scholarship, biosphere, active communities, and entrepreneurship. We also have other projects where we have collaborated with international organisations.”
Deputy Director General at the Department of Science and Innovation, Dr Mmboneni Muofhe explained that the IDP is anchored on very critical aspects of our lives. Those aspects being health, food security, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer. He said a University like UNIVEN has proved that it is ready for partnerships, especially on research projects and entrepreneurship. “This is supported by the evidence by lot of graduates that it has produced that are immensely contributing towards the development of our country. This is the reason why I want to see this partnership happening. We take this partnership serious. In terms of food security, a lot has been done so far and it’s important to appreciate that we are doing well.”
He said Limpopo is a province that produces most food in the country. “It produces quality food. Postgraduate students from Limpopo shouldn’t go to other universities before they could be regarded as quality graduates.”
Dr Segun Obadire presented about internationalisation at UNIVEN. He further presented some of the University achievements where he highlighted the qualities of students that this University is producing every year. Among other things, Dr Obadire presented about niche/ research focus area; available laboratories at UNIVEN; collaborative projects; international linkages and partnerships; support for core business; Academic leadership programmes and other research activities that are currently underway at UNIVEN.
Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture, Prof Ntebogeng Mokgalaka-Fleischmann gave a brief background of the newly established Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture. Among other things Prof Mokgalaka presented the academic programmes, staff membership capacity in the faculty where she highlighted that most staff members hold doctoral qualifications and are NRF rated. The faculty has four (4) young researchers who are also NRF rated. She highlighted the number of research projects that the University is involved in. Prof Mokgalaka-Fleischmann further spoke about some of research groups and research professors who are currently conducting research within the Faculty of Science Engineering and Agriculture.
The Acting Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Prof Tshilidzi Mulaudzi gave the brief background of the departments within the faculty where she indicated programmes and nine undergraduate programmes. Prof Mulaudzi also indicated the number of staff members holding PhDs within the Faculty of Health Sciences. She further indicated areas of research focus in the Faculty of Health Sciences. She said there are new programmes to be introduced in the Faculty of Health Sciences, which are BSc in Health Promotion (Public Health) three (3) years degree; Pharmacy (4 years), Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and Master’s in Clinical Psychology (2 years).
Prof Mulaudzi concluded her presentation by speaking about the faculty collaborations; faculty’s interdisciplinary research projects which include research on epilepsy; covid 19; HIV /AIDS and TB; Ubuntu; maternal and child health; indigenous knowledge and health; nutrition including indigenous foods; Mental health; gender-based violence; sexual and reproductive health.
ICGEB Director General, Dr Lawrence Banks said he is happy to be associated with UNIVEN in a collaborative way. He said UNIVEN is conducting a lot of interesting research and they (ICGEB) are interested in these kind of research projects. He presented about the vision of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology where he highlighted that they advocate for science development. Dr Banks continued to highlight activities that ICGEB is involved in and research that they are currently conducting.
“I was pleased by the presentations from UNIVEN Executive Deans, and I have identified several research interests that I am ready for possible collaborations. Agriculture is part of what we do on daily basis, and we are also ready for collaborations in this field. We provide research grants globally. The organisation has collaborative research grant programme where we support research laboratories in ICGEB member countries, this includes provision for additional training anywhere in the world.”
Dr Banks concluded his talk by speaking about Biotechnology Development Group which supports local biopharmaceutical manufacturing in member countries, improving the drug availability at a more affordable price. He highlighted some of the outreach programmes that they are currently busy with including the annual South African National Science Week.
Department of Marketing, Branding and Communication
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525 /8710
Date: 02 November 2021