Prof Khumbulani Mpofu, winner of theOutstanding Researcher: IndustrialEngineering and Operations Management (IEOM) at the European Conference.
Competing against global industrial engineering researchers, Prof Mpofu won the Outstanding Researcher: Industrial Engineering and Operations Management (IEOM) at the European Conference held in Paris in August 2018. On the same day in Johannesburg, he was awarded the regional Southern African Institute of Industrial Engineering Outstanding Industrial Engineering Researcher Award for 2018.
Prof Mpofu’s mission is to build a manufacturing research infrastructure that breaks the innovation chasm challenges to commercialisation. To ensure that South African products can compete in the global market, the Gibela Research Chair contributes by supporting manufacturers with technological advances. The recently established RMCERI is a vehicle set up with the deliberate intention to transition innovations into becoming manufacturing businesses that create employment. He said the ultimate goal of his research is to try to convert his innovation into a real commercial business. “We are closing the manufacturing gap between the research and development (RnD) and commercialisation functions,” he said.
With his team’s support, Prof Mpofu managed to achieve success beyond expectation. He emphasised that the award belongs to the team, comprising mainly of postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows, Gibela, the Small Enterprise Development Agency and the Faculty research and innovation colleagues. It is his responsibility to come up with concepts and ideas. The team then execute and implement these ideas. “My role is to provide the infrastructure and the ecosystem to realise the advancement of manufacturing in day-today practice,” he said.
He added that he and the team plan raise the bar even higher in the future. “Together with the team, we are in the process to arrange for the necessary infrastructure of the research chair and incubator and also contribute to the innovation ecosystem nationally and globally as well.”
Prof Mpofu acknowledged the external support from Gibela, TUT, NRF, TIA, merSETA and SEDA in attainment of these accolades. “Each or these partners played an important role in this journey, which is still at its initial stages.”