SA’s CSIR lauded for contribution to tech
The Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande has congratulated the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for its contribution in shaping the country’s science, engineering and technology landscape.
On 5 October 2020, the CSIR marks its seven and a half decades of conducting research aimed at improving the quality of life of all South Africans. The council was established through an Act of Parliament in 1945 with the organisation’s executive authority being the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation.
In its statement, the organisation said it plays a significant role in supporting both the public and private sectors through directed research that is aligned with the country’s priorities, the organisation’s mandate and its science, engineering and technology competences.
Within a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, the CSIR repurposed some of labs in support of government's drive for a massive roll-out of testing and is one of the leading organisations in the development of much-need ventilators and rapid testing kits; and the tracking and tracing Covid-19 cases across the country
Noting this research excellence and the swift response to national duty, the Minister said the CSIR has put South Africa on the global map by leading research and technological development in the country in the past decades.
“Over the years, I have been observing, with great pride, the work that the organisation does; work that has made a huge contribution to our country. We are proud of what the CSIR has achieved in the past 75 years through science, technology, engineering and innovation. We also pay tribute to the leadership; the scientists and all the support staff, who over the years, particularly since the new dispensation into our democracy, have passionately, and are continuing to contribute to the transformation of the organisation.”
The CSIR lists work achievements to include the organisation’s online services, Worldnet Africa and CompuServe, that have been sold to MIH Limited, to form MWEB which marked the start of commercial internet services in South Africa.
The CSIR officially opened its clinical and botanical supplies unit in 1999. The facility is key in scientific studies that aim to add value to South Africa’s rich biodiversity and indigenous knowledge. It helps bridge the gap between laboratory research and clinical trials through the production of pharmaceutical grade herbal products.
The Centre for High Performance Computing affords local researchers the advantage of using massive computing power in their quest for new knowledge and application. In 2015, the centre provided a dedicated computing cluster to help the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN, with two particle detector experiments.
In 2002, the CSIR made a breakthrough in biomedical stem cell technology by generating the first induced pluripotent stem cells in Africa. Scientists use these cells to study the interactions between pathogens and specific cell types in the context of African genetics.
The Biomanufacturing Industry Development Centre was established at the CSIR in 2014 to provide product and process development support to South Africa’s SMMEs that intend to produce biologicals for industrial, veterinary and human applications.
Around 2015, CSIR researchers created the first high resolution, locally calibrated national map of woody cover for South Africa, using satellite-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mapping with existing light detection and ranging (LIDAR) datasets derived from airborne surveys.
According to the organisation, this is valuable to monitoring South Africa’s biodiversity and clearing of alien plants.
Minister Nzimande said all these researches conducted by the CSIR stood head and shoulders above similar organisations in the rest of Africa.
“The CSIR has been committed to pushing boundaries in our quest for excellent research, technological innovation, and industrial and scientific development. This is evident in the many sectors of our economy that you are impacting through the support you provide to government and the citizens, addressing the majority of the focus areas outlined in the National Development Plan,” he said.