NEOFrontiers Programme to Address Socioeconomic and Environmental Challenges

NEOFrontiers Programme to Address Socioeconomic and Environmental Challenges

A new programme developed by the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) in collaboration with the National Research Foundation (NRF), called the New Earth Observation Frontiers (NEOFrontiers), was launched at an event held at the NRF’s head office in Pretoria on 12 May 2022.

NEOFrontiers forms part of the South Africa’s  Earth Observation Strategy which aims to address the country’s socioeconomic and environmental challenges. It will play a key role in SANSA’s multi-billion Rand mission to improve and enhance Earth observation and space science in sub-Saharan Africa through infrastructure development including the building of new satellites for Earth observation applications; the building of a new ground station; the development an expanded data segment and building of a new data visualisation centre; activation of the satellite-based augmentation system over Southern Africa; as well as to develop human capital. The new programme will help South Africa to advance collaboration, cooperation, and innovation in the among its Earth observation community, including academia and the public and private sectors and is envisaged as a collaborative yet competitive programme for developing capacities around new capabilities, products, services, and value-added components in the Earth observation sector.

Special guests at the launch event included CEO of the NRF, Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, who made the keynote address; the Acting CEO for the SANSA, Ms Andiswa Mlisa; and the Acting Deputy Director-General for the Department of Science and Innovation, Dr Rebecca Maserumule.

Said Dr Nelwamondo, “I regard this partnership [between SANSA and the NRF] as highly strategic, and would like to acknowledge the close collaboration with SANSA as we strengthen our science system, and commit to long-standing and valuable engagement between South Africa’s system actors. We are pleased that the NRF can contribute to this partnership, and the support of the sector at large, through our recognised grants management systems and expertise, which are important enablers of a competitive and quality research system with local and international impact.”

Says Dr Rebecca Maserumule, Acting Deputy Director-General for the DSI, “Stimulating collaboration, cooperation and competitiveness among the key players in South Africa’s Earth observation sector is important if we are to continue to maintain our global footprint. Innovative and localised Earth observation upstream capabilities and downstream information services and industry are critical if we are to create new jobs and new opportunities that are sustainable into the future.”

The first Call for the NEOFrontiers programme was opened in 2021 and four projects were awarded with funding for a period of up to three years starting from January 2022. The awardees were announced during the launch event of NEOFrontiers. The first four funded projects are titled:

  • Development of New High-Resolution Water Quality Observation Capabilities for Coastal and Estuarine Systems
  • Earth Observation and Disruptive Economics: Developing smart tools for value enhancement for small scale food production
  • Development of New Hyperspectral Capabilities Across Aquatic, Atmospheric and Terrestrial Domains (HyperCAAT)
  • Hyperspectral Signal Processing for Terrestrial, Aquatic and Atmospheric Applications (HysTAA) in South Africa

The Call for funding of new NEOFrontiers projects that will commence in 2023 is now opened and will close on 11 July 2022. The new Call is informed by the following themes:

  • Development of Climate Change Hazard Indices based on the Digital Earth Africa Platform
  • High resolution multi-sensor object-based detection for road network monitoring.
  • Multi-Sensor Campaign Postgraduate Research and Development Support

For more information on the NEOFrontiers 2022 call, please visit

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