National Research Infrastructure Platforms

National Research Infrastructure Platforms (NRIP)

The purpose of NRIP (Programme 4) is to provide leading edge research infrastructure platforms to support the production of world-class knowledge and innovation outputs and facilitate human capacity development and science engagement. This is done to ensure that the national research enterprise has the requisite infrastructure to undertake globally competitive research and innovation, train the next generation of researchers, support engagement with science by and with the public, and promote innovation that has a positive social, environmental, and economic impact.

NRIP affects the NRF Mandate mainly through the following:

Management of the suite of the National Facilities (NFs) in the Nuclear, Material and Radiation Physics Sciences (NRF-iThemba LABS), the Biodiversity and Environmental Sciences (NRF-SAIAB and NRFSAEON) and the Astronomy and Geodetic Sciences (NRF-SAAO and NRF-SARAO). Instrumentation research and development are underpinning these core science disciplines.

Fostering technological innovation and commercialisation through designing and deploying research infrastructure platforms and instruments and the current conceptualisation and prototyping of Technology Innovation Hubs at each National Facility.

Co-management with Programme 3 with regard to access to national and global research infrastructures for South African researchers and postgraduate students through multi-year travel and access grants. This allows them to access large-scale multilateral research infrastructures that no individual country could afford by themselves, namely CERN and ESRF in France; JINR in Russia; the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) in Namibia; and the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA).

Management of multilateral research infrastructure platforms located in South Africa and in which South Africa has a stake, such as the soon-to-be constructed Square Kilometre Array (SKA-MID), jointly operated between NRFSARAO and the SKA Observatory and the currently NRF-SAAO-operated Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), of which South Africa owns a 34% share.

Management of specific interventions to support the Multiwavelength Astronomy (MWLA) Strategy for South Africa, which over the MTEF period includes promoting astronomy with BRICS countries, management of the Office of Astronomy for Development (OAD), support for South African Involvement in the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST), Environmental Pollution Studies at SALT and NRF-SARAO; management and hosting of the XXXII General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (the IAU - GA2024) to be held in August 2024 in Cape Town; and other initiatives in support of promoting astronomy in the country.

Support of research infrastructure platforms that are not formally declared National Research Facilities but whose significance, scale, scope, cost and impact scientifically is national, such as the Centre for High-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy (C-HRTEM) hosted by Nelson Mandela University (NMU).

Advanced engagement of the public with the science being undertaken at the research infrastructure platforms managed and/or supported by the NRF under the SES.

Undertaking human capacity development through designated student support programmes hosted by research infrastructure platforms and implemented essentially with and through Programme 3. The HCD undertaken at National Facilities complements that of the HEIs 45 / NRF Annual Preformance Plan 2024/25 as it is orientated explicitly around the unique infrastructure and capabilities at the National Facilities that are not available at individual Institutions.