Prof Khumbulani Mpofu.
The event will kick-off with an exhibition of prototypes derived from the funded research, at 2 Shosholoza Avenue, Dunnottar – Nigel, on 30 August 2021. This will be followed by the launch and celebration of the Gibela Research Chair on 3 September at Ditsela Place, Corner Jan Shoba and Park Street – Hatfield.
Gibela Rail Transport Consortium is the new factory commissioned to revitalise the commuter rail car network with a modern railcar called the X’trapolis Mega.
The vision of the Gibela Research Chair is to establish a social compact in the nation to bridge the large skills gap between the transport manufacturing industries and the citizens, particularly the youth and university graduates that are the future employers and the workforce of the country.
The project leader and Chair-holder, Prof Khumbulani Mpofu, who has successfully headed the chair since its establishment in 2016, mentioned that the vision of the research chair is to pioneer cutting-edge research in manufacturing technology development and manufacturing value chain skills development, geared for the revitalisation of the South African railway-manufacturing sector. Furthermore, the Research Chair focuses on manufacturing in rail specific learning programmes, research and developments focused on rail.
“Our mission for 2025 is to develop an efficient and enabling environment for advanced manufacturing developments and skills acquisition on up-to-date technologies that will meet with global standards in the field of manufacturing, also known as production engineering. Recent research, as well as global trends and dynamic challenges faced in the manufacturing sector, have shown that there is a rapid drive towards the digital manufacturing era, where production in the industrial sectors will be optimally achieved through wisdom manufacturing. I must mention that we are very excited and also looking forward to exhibiting to the public some of the amazing work done thus far with this project,” Prof Mpofu explained.
Thokozani Mabuya, Human Resources Executive at the Rail Transport Consortium said: “Gibela was formed as a consortium to replace South Africa's outdated rolling stock and will deliver 600 state-of-the-art passenger trains to the South African rail network over a decade. Fully empowered, Gibela is conscious of its role as a catalyst for economic development and the creation of new skills in partnership with its stakeholders. We are excited to be launching a research chair for the benefit of knowledge generation in the rail industry. The research chair will further provide platforms where youth can be engaged and enriched with knowledge and skills to meet up with the emerging technologies of the digital age.”
Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Research, Innovation and Engagement.
Furthermore, towards achieving the 2025 vision, the Gibela Chair will develop training for technology management to enable citizens to fit into different opportunities in the manufacturing industries. In addition to the activities of the chair in the past, this training will include updated skills on how to develop small-medium scale businesses that can serve as service or product providers to the manufacturing industries. The Rail Manufacturing Centre for Entrepreneurship Rapid Incubator has been established as a vehicle to advance entrepreneurship among young people. The DSI-NRF SARChI Future Transport Manufacturing Technologies has been set up to replicate the manufacturing technologies in the other transport sectors besides the rail, such as road, sea and air transport.
The skills transfer will be co-anchored by professionals in the field of business development that will see the participants through business development, actualisation and recognition. In addition to the gallery of publications and patents in the field of manufacturing that the chair has published in the past, the chair will increase the publications for the nation to gain international recognition by 2025.
Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC) who spearheads Research, Innovation and Engagement, at the University said: “The Gibela Research Chair is a true epitome of collaborative efforts between academia, government and industry. As a University of Technology, it is our belief that for us to have a positive societal impact, we should focus on partnering with industry to address the challenges of our societies. We are truly proud of this working relationship and grateful to Gibela Rail Transport Consortium for setting this great example”.