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Eastern Cape universities are leading research in vital sectors

Partnerships and collaboration between educational institutions, the private sector and government are preparing the way for future generations to be on the edge of innovation in vital sectors.

Expensive medical tests in rural areas for problematic pregnancies could soon be a thing of the past. The new Rhodes University Biotechnology Innovation Centre is working on a cellphone app that will send colour pictures of test strips to diagnostic centres, saving the patient a long and difficult journey.

The University of Fort Hare is leading three innovative studies into biogas including a project investigating compressed biogas for public transport. Partners in the project are the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEDEAT), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation and United States Agency for International Development. The South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) is working with Fort Hare on a pilot scheme of biodigesters for households.

In 2017, Nelson Mandela University (NMU) inaugurated its Ocean Sciences Campus at its Port Elizabeth base. This includes a unit aimed at combating sea fisheries crime (FishFORCE, with support from Norway) and the South African International Maritime Institute (SAIMI). The university has four marine sector chairs funded by the South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) and the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) and the University of South Africa (Unisa) offer vocational training (diplomas) and academic programmes (degrees).

There are several examples in the Eastern Cape of collaboration between the manufacturing sector and educational institutions. General Motors SA has assigned R3.6-million to a Chair in Mechatronics at NMU, which offers a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechatronics, covering electronics, mechanical engineering and computer-aided design. Volkswagen supports the International Chair in Automotive Engineering at NMU. Rhodes University’s Centre for Environmental Water Quality, within the Institute for Water Research, is sponsored by Unilever. The NMU Institute of Chemical Technology commercialises research through a body called InnoVenton and has several clients in the private sector.

The Provincial Government of the Eastern Cape is supporting skills training in the maritime sector through the Maritime Youth Development Programme. So far, it has benefitted 128 young people from Buffalo City Municipality and Port St Johns and will be rolled out to other areas. In the Youth in Infrastructure Maintenance Programme, the provincial government partners with several national departments to provide opportunities for unskilled young people with NCV 4 and Grade 12 qualifications and below. The programme is targeting 5 000 young people over a period of five years.

The Eastern Cape has eight Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) colleges, most of which have more than one campus: Buffalo City, Port Elizabeth, Lovedale, King Hintsa, Ingwe, King Sabata Dalinyebo, Ikhala and Eastcape Midlands College.

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