NRF Discussion on South Africa's Just Energy Transition Highlights Need for Collaboration

NRF Discussion on South Africa’s Just Energy Transition Highlights Need for Collaboration

The R150 million co-funding cooperation between the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Sasol Ltd has a number of opportunities on the pipeline, all aimed at increasing South Africa’s capacity and capability in just energy transition.

Dr Theo Mudzunga, Vice President for Research and Technology at Sasol, made these remarks at a colloquium that the NRF hosted as part of Science Forum South Africa. The colloquium was aptly titled Approaches for innovative capacity building programmes to support South Africa’s just energy transition. Dr Mudzunga joined a session that brought together key stakeholders from the NRF and industry to discuss ways to better respond and contribute to the country’s energy transition efforts.

Through its Foundation and Research & Technology function, Sasol and the NRF have two significant cooperation agreements to jointly sponsor and support South Africa’s next generation of science and engineering researchers. The agreements were entered into in 2021 and aim to achieve set objectives within five years.

The first agreement resulted in the establishment of the NRF-Sasol Foundation Scholarship Programme. It aims to bolster the number of science researchers from historically disadvantaged universities as well as Black and/or female scientists and those living with disabilities. The programme’s target is to sponsor at least 102 candidates over the next three years from 2022, with nearly half of them being Master’s and Doctoral students.

The second agreement pertains to dedicated industry-academia research collaboration and aims to provide funding and strategic support, such as assistance with research focus and direction, for research in science and engineering areas that can enable South Africa’s energy transition as well as the development of its green economy. A bespoke Postdoctoral Innovation Fellowships Programme, as well as the South African Research Chairs in Power System Modelling and Green Hydrogen, were awarded through this agreement. Awards to a total of six postdoctoral Fellows and four Research Chairs were announced in February 2023.

Dr Mudzunga told the session that the Sasol, NRF joint funding cooperation ensures continued collaboration between Sasol and the country’s universities. He added that the cooperation is intended to address the national energy transition imperatives. “There are few programmes already happening and there are more coming,” he said.

Koena Motloi, the NRF’s Director: Strategy, Planning and Partnerships, told the session that South Africa’s just energy transition agenda could get a boost from cooperation efforts in the national system of innovation. Such collaborations would see more initiatives similar to that of the NRF and Sasol.

Said Motloi, “It starts with establishing a common agenda. The issue that we see in the South African national system of innovation is the lack of coordination. To that effect we’re having multiple organisations, science councils, research funders, and technology development funders funding technically the same activities across the value chain of research and development. The first approach should be to get rid of the fragmentations in the system, work in joint programmes, and develop common programmes.”

Dr Zolani Dyosi, NRF’s Director: Knowledge Advancement and Support, added that the NRF is working hard to “get as many partners as possible locally and abroad, and to strengthen university links as well as industry links”. “In terms of the energy crisis that we’re facing in South Africa, it is high time that we innovate. We also need to increase (science) investment in order to achieve the skills that we require for just energy transition.”

Related Posts