Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation Launch the Legacy Report at NRF-iThemba LABS

Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation Launch the Legacy Report at NRF-iThemba LABS

The outgoing Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation visited the new South African Isotope Facility (SAIF) at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences (NRF-iThemba LABS), Cape Town campus, on Wednesday, 13 March 2024.

Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Nompendulo Mkhatshwa, led members in the site visit of the facility which houses the 70 MeV cyclotron used to increase the production of radioisotopes and research into nuclear medicine in South Africa.

Inaugurated by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, in June 2023, SAIF is one of NRF-iThemba LABS’s flagship projects. Ms Mkhatshwa and members of the portfolio committee visited the facility ahead of their important meeting on the science, technology and innovation (STI) Legacy Report. The report presents the broad work that the committee undertook for the advancement of STI during the country’s 6th Parliament.

Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, NRF CEO, thanked the committee for finding it befitting to hold a meeting so relevant to the science and innovation system at NRF-iThemba LABS. He said, “The SAIF 70 MeV cyclotron facility that the Committee members visited is a game-changer in South Africa’s efforts to increase the production of life-saving nuclear medicine, as well increasing pertinent research and training.”

“What you have witnessed is not only the largest cyclotron in the Southern Hemisphere, but also the largest on the African continent. We’re pleased that you have seen where some of the investments have gone and what they have done for the science system, and for the general public that we serve.”

“We want to use this cyclotron to increase the beamtime that’s available for research in South Africa, and that will actually assist the country in the development of new research fields and applications that include, among others, research into new and innovative solutions for cancer treatment and early diagnosis, something that we’re already doing.”

Dr Nelwamondo added that the facility will enable South Africa to extend research into the sub-atomic physics and disciplines including space science, nano science and other technology. “We also aim to double the number of postgraduate students that are supported in the areas relating to nuclear science and also increase the radioisotope supplies for both the local and international markets. We sell isotopes from this facility to many countries including Russia, India, USA, Canada and many more.”

Dr Nelwamondo thanked the committee for its support to the science and innovation system throughout its tenure that began in 2019. He added, “I hope that the next Committee will be as excited as this one has been in the advancement of, and as ambassadors for, science and ensuring that we find better ways to invest more in science because the science that we’re do here makes an impact. It is science that changes the lives of people”. 

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