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Launch of the ARUA CoE in Materials, Energy and Nanotechnology

28th November 2018
The joint launch of the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Materials, Energy and Nanotechnology (ARUA CoE MEN) and the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Migration and Mobility (ARUA CoE M&M) took place on the 15th November 2018 at the University of the Witwatersrand. For ARUA CoE MEN, the launch was preceded by a nearly day-long workshop.

Apart from the delegate from the U. Nairobi having problems with the Skype link, there was at least one representative from the other partner institutions:

  • Wits (Director and Secretariat): DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Strong Materials (CoE-SM) and Materials for Energy Research Group (MERG)
  • Ghana
  • Pretoria.

Using the original proposal as a starting point, which was shown in a presentation, the workshop explored possible directions to undertake research, and how the teams could be constructed.  The advantages of co-supervision were explored, and it was recognised that co-supervision across different partner institutions would be very good for strengthening the collaborations, as well as giving the students an enhanced experience, and access to wider expertise, allowing increased potential for multi-disciplinary research.  The overall theme of ARUA CoE MEN is the development of materials and new technologies to benefit Africa, in both infrastructure and human development, and to compete globally.  There will be a range of research foci, for example, from fundamental to devices up to prototype level, or from beneficiation of resources to their application.  These themes should help to identify and later develop new opportunities in an African context, e.g. minerals beneficiation, advanced manufacturing, off-grid energy technologies, structural materials and materials recycling.  The latter is seen as a method of obtaining more material, as well as removing waste.  A matrix management approach is planned, so that the different projects will be evaluated and studied in terms of: target, impact, research, product and feasibility.  Also, outreach will be undertaken, especially to encourage school learners to study science and engineering, and to retain the necessary subjects, and any necessary advocacy would be identified.  It was unanimously agreed that the research would need to be high standard, and the overall expertise (students as well as academics) would be extended.  Innovation and entrepreneurship will be encouraged.  Research infrastructure would be necessary, either to acquire, or to access through networking and collaboration, even for non-African countries.

It was realised that more people would be invited to join: for example, Prof. Selo Ndlovu as an extractive metallurgist, and Prof. J. Neething was invited because of the excellent facilities of the CHRTEM at NMU, which are undoubtedly the best in Africa.  Other funding opportunities were discussed (e.g. Horizon 2020), as well as UKRI, and a proposal template will be designed in order to collect information effectively.  The workshop agreed that there would be a board to affirm the correct directions were taken.

Thirty people were invited by ARUA CoE MEN to attend the joint launch with the ARUA CoE Migration and Mobility, and they came from Wits, University of Johannesburg and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), as well as the partner institutions.  Professor Zeblon Vilakazi (DVC: Research and Post Graduate Affairs), Dr Robin Drennan (Director: Research and Post Graduate Affairs), Prof. Cornish (Director of ARUA CoE MEN) and Dr Jo Vearey (Deputy Director of ARUA CoE M&M) gave short talks.  The workshop and the launch were very useful to start ARUA CoE MEN by the deep discussions to define ARUA CoE MEN as a promotor of African solutions for solving African problems, and by generating exposure and giving information.