Prof Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP; Prof Sergio Ferrari, Pro-rector Unimore and Prof Lourens van Staden, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of TUT signing the Memorandum of Understanding.
The relationship between Unimore, the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) and the Gauteng universities forms part of broader industrial and developmental collaboration in the Automotive and Mobility industry.
In his key note address, His Excellency Paolo Cuculi, Ambassador of Italy, commended the parties involved in the Italy-South Africa Bilateral Workshop on Automotive and Mobility for initiating the university collaboration project with the support of the AIDC, Municipality of Reggio Emilia and the E35 Foundation.
“With Gauteng branded as the SMART Province, as Vice-Chancellor of TUT I am very proud that the two SMART sister Universities of Pretoria and Wits have included TUT in this partnership. AIDC hubs play a pivotal role in up-skilling individuals and supporting the growth of local SMMEs, as part of government’s bid to revitalise township economy. Expanding our partnerships outside the continent will also increase the leverage they provide for our African engagement,” said Prof Lourens van Staden, Vice-Chancellor and Principal in his opening remarks.
He added that TUT, through the IndustryGrid at the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, is totally committed to building capacity in the Province. “As such I will make every endeavour to support our Academic Staff and Postgraduate Students to exceed expectations. We have already travelled the road in automotive excellence in developing South Africa’s first hydrogen powered bicycle in 2012. The vehicle was featured on Discovery Channel. Here we had an Italian Connection where the Chief Designer of Ducati, Mr Pierre Terblanche, assisted with pro-bono design support to realise the development in less than nine months. This project was initiated by the Institute for Advanced Tooling at the Soshanguve Campus, assisted by the Technology Station in Electronics,” Prof van Staden added.
Highlighting other achievements, Prof van Staden said TUT is also privileged to have recently been awarded a Chair in Intelligent Manufacturing from merSETA. The Chair is hosted within the Technology Station in Electronics, under the leadership of Dr SJ Jacobs and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built environment, Prof Ben van Wyk. “The purpose of this Chair is to identify and support Industry-based research projects and skills development programmes to strengthen and accelerate Industry and Academic collaboration in the Automotive and Electronic manufacturing sectors,” Prof van Staden explained.
Also in attendance was Dr Thandi Mgwebi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor PRIE, who said; “At TUT we believe in umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu and we sincerely believe that our African culture and engaged scholarship approach cannot be separated. This is the reason that our partnerships are carefully selected and are in sync with our new strategic vision of making knowledge work! We are indeed excited about the future ahead and realizing the outcomes and impact of this particular partnership as well as integrating it with many other research endeavours at TUT in a truly trans disciplinary fashion.”
Explaining the importance of internationalisation, engagement and partnerships, Naledi Nthite, Acting- Deputy Director Research and Niche Areas Support said; “TUT takes its responsibility of co-creating knowledge with the community, and student engagement as active participants in their own learning seriously. International engagement and partnerships serve as a tool to enable this agenda. As an African institution we are committed to increasing and strengthening our connections and partnerships globally.”
She added that internationalisation is at the forefront of our conversations in the educational arena, and as such, TUT has deliberately adopted the notion of engagement beyond borders. “In future, institutions will become increasingly dependent on industry, community and government partnerships, as well as affiliation with other institutions. TUT actively plays a role in recruiting international students and staff, participating in study programmes abroad (inbound and outbound), and smart institutional partnerships. The aim is to have a proportion of undergraduate and postgraduate international students through focused recruitment from our own continent, the BRICS nations, Asia, the Americas, Australasia and Europe. Internationalisation encourages what TUT refers to as engaged academic scholarship.”