TUT’s research chair in 4IR leads the pack 

4 March 2022

TUT Professor, Pius Adewale Owolawi from the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is making great strides and leading through his MICT SETA Research Chair in Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). 

Prof Pius Adewale Owolawi from the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

The MICT SETA 4IR Research chair initiative was inspired and challenged by how the future of work ecosystems may look like, hence the chair initiative is geared towards three primary mandates: research and innovation, services and lastly capacity, skills development and training.

Speaking on his awarding, Prof Owolawi couldn’t contain his proud moment. “I am extremely proud of the award. TUT was selected among other five institutions to fulfil mandates and recommendations of the MICT SETA 4IR advisory committee. To explain it better, the MICT SETA 4IR advisory committee was established to adhere to four organisational pillars: education, research, policy, and labour. One of the key outputs from the advisory committee is the integrated digital skills strategy. We are geared up for the hard work and great research ahead of us,” said Prof Owolawi.

Dr Etienne Van Wyk, Executive Dean at the Faculty of ICT and Interim Campus Rector at TUT’s Soshanguve campus, said the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is one of the global megatrends shaping debate around emerging technologies in industry and academia, as well as among policy-makers. It entails the convergence of cyber-physical systems, building from the Third Industrial Revolution, which was inspired by automation through the use of logical controllers.

Dr van Wyk stated that “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a key component of the 4IR, and forms the foundation of many of the innovations emanating from ICT and Engineering at our University. Technologies that play an important role in this regard include embedded systems, Internet of Things, networks, robotics, smart devices, smart materials, and smart and sustainable infrastructure.”

Dr Etienne Van Wyk, Executive Dean at the Faculty of ICT and Interim Campus Rector.

He added: “Recognising that the success of any attempt to advance the 4IR is dependent on the synergistic integration of technologies, people and processes, our faculty follows a research strategy that encourages research and innovation through transdisciplinary integration. Also, given our unique position to facilitate research opportunities to advance the 4IR through future technologies, the faculty is poised to increase South Africa’s competitiveness in this fast-evolving arena,” said Dr Van Wyk.

Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Engagement at the University said that TUT has played an essential role in driving the MICT SETA mandates through the appointed research chair within the three tiers of the chair's responsibilities, namely, research and innovation, services and capacity development and capacity building in 4IR and other emerging technologies. We are extremely proud of this chair and moreover the huge benefits awaiting our students.”

She added: “Our relationship with MICT SETA is solid and continues to grow every year. A total of R1,170 000.00 was released to fund the bursaries for thirteen master’s degree students. In early February 2022, an additional R27,965.00 Service Level Agreement (SLA) was signed as a top-up for the first cohort of the remaining thirteen postgraduate students. Some of these funds were utilised for students already studying towards their master’s degrees and have enabled the appointed research chair, Prof Owolaiwi, to graduate four Master of Computing candidates and an additional three Master of Computing candidates are finalising their dissertations.”

Dr Vathiswa Papu-Zamxaka, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Engagement.

The MICT SETA- sponsored research chair in 4IR also has a service mandate where the central idea is rendering service to the community, which involves both the public and enterprise.  The research chair has contributed to the service by successfully designing and developing a giant 3-D printer for crime reconstruction and printing 3-D products and manufacturing parts. In collaboration with the Centre for Energy and Electric Power, which is situated in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, the chair was actively involved in developing an energy-efficient lighting assessment tool and application for GIZ SAGEN – South Africa / German Development Cooperation. The cost of the project and its activities combined was close to 2 million rand. The chair also submitted a proposal to MICT SETA to develop a Learning Management System (LMS) and is fully involved in the design and development of 4IR future skills qualifications managed by the MICT SETA and the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO).

“It is important to note that TUT is the only university with an ICT Faculty in southern Africa, which means that we are uniquely positioned to specialise in a number of ICT areas. Moreover, our university is among seven universities and the only university of technology in the country that made it onto the list of leading computer science universities in the world in the Times Higher Education world university rankings of 2021”, said Dr Papu-Zamxaka.

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