The mutual agreement of understanding was signed between the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Unimore) and the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT) at the University of Pretoria (UP). The University of the Witwatersrand already has a Memorandum of Understanding with Unimore, from an earlier initiative by their Humanities Faculty.
The Italy-South Africa bilateral Workshop on Automotive and Mobility Engineering was held the 16th and 17th September 2019 at the University of Pretoria. The formal opening was officiated by His Excellency Paolo Cuculi, the Ambassador of Italy in Pretoria.
The purpose of the workshop was to detail collaboration between the participating universities. The programme consisted of sessions for the professors to present their research and specialist teaching, and to allow mutual understanding of potential collaboration and student and staff exchange. There were also sessions devoted to planning joint applications for government, particularly EU funded programs for research and for student and staff exchange.
Intent and purpose
The signed agreements address the universities’ rights and responsibilities regarding student and staff exchange initiatives, and intellectual property in collaborative research and development work. The agreements are required to ensure that the rights of the parties are protected and responsibilities are clear regarding collaborative applications, research and development projects, and government funding for student and staff exchange.
The intent is for collaboration between universities, government and industry partners in both countries, to grow their education and research support within the automotive and mobility industries.
Prof. Jasper Steyn of the Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC), who was a facilitator for the workshop, commented: “The automotive manufacturing industry is important, because it is the largest sector of the manufacturing industry in South Africa. It provides direct, indirect and induced employment to some 340,000 people in Gauteng and 740,000 in South Africa. The monetary value of global trade in automotive products comprise about one-third that of all manufactured goods. Mobility engineering is growing massively in importance as pressures on society increase due to rapid urbanisation and environmental impact of mobility.”
The workshop and the relationship between Unimore and the Gauteng universities are part of broader industry and development organisation collaboration between the municipality of Reggio Emilia in Italy and the Gauteng Provincial Government.
The Automotive Industry Development Centre (AIDC) is an industry development agency for the South African automotive industry. The AIDC is a subsidiary of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency (GGDA), which is an agency of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development. The AIDC was established as a support centre to strengthen global competitiveness in the local automotive industry and to bolster the position of Gauteng as an automotive industry destination of choice.
The AIDC initiated the Gauteng-Unimore collaboration project in 2018 with support from the municipality of Reggio Emilia and funding from its E35 Foundation for International Projects. This funding resulted from previous successes of the AIDC in collaboration with the E35 Foundation on establishing a Township Enterprise Hub in Chamdor for upskilling township automotive body repair, tyre fitment and maintenance service providers.
With sponsorship from the E35 Foundation Professor Schalk Els (UP), Mr Bob Bond (TUT IndustryGrid) and Prof Jasper Steyn (AIDC project manager) visited Unimore with an AIDC delegation led by AIDC Executive Dineshan Moodley in January 2019 to promote the automotive and mobility research of UP, TUT and Wits.
Founded in 1175, Unimore is one of the oldest universities in the world. The university has taken advantage of its position in the heart of the “Motor Valley” in northern Italy to build excellent collaboration with global leaders in supercar and -bike engineering such as Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati. It has a proven track record of success in obtaining EU funding for student and staff exchange and for collaborative research with universities and industry in other countries.
During the visit to Unimore, the Gauteng universities’ delegation identified exciting potential research and student and staff exchange collaboration opportunities with Unimore.