Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government, industry and universities worked together to mitigate the impacts of the crisis. South African universities collaborated with the national and local governments and industry to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators and many other innovations to assist in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Engagement said: “Colleagues, it is fair to pat ourselves at the back as we were able to bring to the fore engagements that highlighted that the 4IR space is more multifaceted for government, business or universities to handle independently. It is with no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on all aspects of our lives. For this reason, we need to harness university-business partnerships to invest in impactful research and develop projects to help improve the way we do business, teach, learn and do research post Covid-19”.
“The discussions in this conference have given us a wake-up call to properly plan and strategise, to guarantee that we are leading in 4IR and not reacting or catching up with rest of the world. This will require efforts from government to ensure that the policy environment is conducive, universities will have to produce knowledge and research required and business partners are required to contribute resources to build a mutually beneficial ecosystem post Covid-19”, said Dr Papu-Zamxaka.
Speaking on the significance of THENSA, Dr Anshu Padayachee, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said THENSA exists to enable its partner institutions to respond to the challenges and targets set in the National Development Plan (NDP), the UN SDG’s and the Africa 2063 Agenda, through Technological Education, Research and Innovation.
She added: “This conference as well as the theme was absolutely necessary. The responses to the pandemic’s disruptions are just the beginning of South Africa’s experience with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Yet the interventions developed by universities in collaboration with the government and industry may not be sustainable when looking at South Africa’s current innovation and industrial policies.”
“Indeed, the conference was an eye opener to a lot of issues. We are looking forward to sundry innovative collaborations from universities, government and industry. I would also like to thank all our member institutions, Tshwane University of Technology. Durban University of Technology (DUT), Vaal University of Technology (VUT), Central University of Technology (CUT) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)”, said Dr Padayachee.
The objectives that THENSA set for the conference included:
- To develop a set of insight papers, taking a deep dive into the possibilities of 4IR and each of these issues.
- Build new networks of practitioners within the thematic areas and support them to co-design and innovate for action in each of these areas, leveraging the latest the 4IR has to offer.
- Develop a public-private accelerator for action, enabling the Higher Education sector, government, Business and Industry funds to be pooled and deployed into scaling innovative 4IR solutions for the environment
- Assist government stakeholders to develop and implement the requisite policy protocols that will help such 4IR solutions for them to take root and get to scale.