The National Research Foundation was established as an independant government agency, through the National Research Foundation Act [Act No.23 of 1998].
The NRF receives its mandate from the National Research Foundation Act (Act No 23 of 1998, as amended). According to Section 3 of the Act, the object of the NRF is to contribute to national development by:
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Africa’s leading research facility for accelerator based science. Probing fundamental structure and the origins of matter; Advancing the understanding of condensed matter; Impacting the Societal need through provision for the health and environmental sector
The iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator Based Sciences is the continents' biggest facility for particle and nuclear research.
The SAAO is a national facility of the NRF and the national centre for optical and infrared astronomy in South Africa.
SAEON is a national platform for detecting, translating and predicting environmental change.
SAIAB provides unique skills and infrastructure support in marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems research, molecular research, collections and bioinformatics.
SARAO is a national facility of the NRF and incorporates radio astronomy instruments and programmes such as MeerKAT and KAT-7 telescopes in the Karoo, (HartRAO) in Gauteng...
South Africa’s innovation revolution must assist in solving our society’s deep and pressing socio-economic challenges. Global competitiveness, shrinking resource availability, and the requirements of a skilled labour force mean that, increasingly, an awareness and understanding of why science and research are critical to our lives is essential for developing an innovation culture.
Within the next five years, the aim is to begin to more fully embed engagement in and with science in the core NRF missions of supporting and promoting new knowledge and growing new knowledge workers. This is led by the formulation of an acceptable NRF position on engaged research which will guide the NRF approach…
NRF | SAASTA is the NRF business division tasked with leading and coordinating the science engagement programme across the NRF and beyond. The NRF is equally committed to ensuring that the science engagement leadership and national coordination role…
The NRF provides leading-edge research infrastructure platforms that ensure that the national research enterprise has the requisite infrastructure to undertake globally competitive discovery science, train the next generation of researchers, support engagement with science by and with the public and promote innovation that positively impacts society, the environment, the economy.
The annual NRF Awards recognize and celebrate South African research excellence. The awards presented to researchers are in two categories, the ratings linked awards and special recognition awards.
The National Research Foundation (NRF) conducts its procurement of goods, services, and works in accordance with its Supply Chain Management Policy in a manner that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive, and cost-effective
The National Research Foundation (NRF) is guided by its Supply Chain Management Policy in its procurement of goods and services. The Policy sets out the prescripts issued by National Treasury with the exact note referenced in the footnotes. The Supply Chain Management policy adheres to the National Treasury’s prescribed supply chain system framework.
The NRF’s Supply Chain Management Policy and the conduct of supply chain management at the NRF seeks to give effect to section 217 of the South African Constitution which requires that all procurement of goods and services must be done in a manner that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.
The National Research Foundation bid awards and contracts. Below is the latest award.
August is Women’s Month, and this year the National Research Foundation (NRF) is celebrating the remarkable contributions that have been made by women researchers for the betterment of humanity. We thank all participants for sharing their stories with us.
Dr Lethiwe Debra Mthembu is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Chemistry at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and a part-time Lecturer at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT). She received funding from the NRF for her postgraduate and postdoctoral studies.
What impact did the NRF have on your studies/career?
I first received NRF funding for my BTech at MUT which was quite helpful because I was unemployed and my mother is a pensioner, making it hard for me to pay tuition expenses. I was supported by the NRF for my Master’s, which linked to my supervisor’s NRF grant. I obtained Doctoral Innovation funding for my PhD (2016 – 2018) and was awarded NRF Scarce Skills postdoctoral funding.
Because of NRF, I was able to focus on my studies as a full-time student throughout my postgraduate qualifications.
What has been your study/career journey?
My high school chemistry teacher, Miss Fundisiwe Gumede, instilled in me a love for the subject since she was so enthusiastic about teaching Physical Chemistry. When I visited MUT, I noticed the Analytical Chemistry course which included a variety of chemistry, and I thought it would be fascinating. I registered for the Analytical Chemistry Diploma. I later completed a National Diploma and a BTech at MUT – it was quite difficult, but I concentrated only on my studies.
After graduating from BTech, my project supervisor, Dr Njabulo Gumede, who was pursuing his PhD at the time, motivated me to pursue Master’s and PhD studies. I then went to DUT to enrol for a Master’s degree under the supervision of Prof Nirmala Deenadayalu and co-supervisor Dr Prashant Reddy. For my Master’s, I went to India for one month and Germany for two months for research visits with NRF funding from my supervisor. During those research visits we published papers and I fell more in love with being a scientist.
I also obtained a Doctoral degree at DUT under the same supervisor but with a different co-supervisor, Prof. David Lokhat. In the second year of my PhD, I received the L’Oréal-UNESCO Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Fellowship for Women in Science, which is my best achievement to date. In 2019, I received the Gagasi FM SHERO Award in the Science and Technology Category, and in 2022, I received the SACI Sasol Postgraduate Award for my PhD. Last year, I started my postdoctoral position at DUT, and I was awarded NRF Postdoctoral Scarce Skills funding.
In addition, I work as a part-time Lecturer at MUT. I’ve been a tutor, lab demonstrator, and lecture assistant. Chemistry is currently my favourite since it provides solutions to the world’s socioeconomic problems.
What is your research focus on/what is your area of expertise?
My research focus area is biomass processing. I investigate environmentally friendly methods to produce products from sugarcane bagasse. Sugarcane bagasse is a type of biomass that is produced after extracting juice from sugarcane.
Why is your research/work important?
The depletion of fossil fuels is a problem that we are currently facing, as most chemicals are produced from fossil fuels. Hence, biomass is investigated as an alternative in the production of various chemicals. Biomass in a renewable resource is usually made up of three major components: cellulose (43.8 %), hemicellulose (27.5 %), and lignin (5.0 %) (Schmidt et al. 2017). There are different types of biomass such as wheat straw, corn, water hyacinth, wood, pulp slurry, rice husk, sorghum grain, tobacco chops, olive tree pruning, poplar sawdust, paper sludge, and sugarcane bagasse (Rackemann and Doherty. 2011; Himmel et al. 2007; Abdulkhani et al. 2013).
In my research, I use sugarcane bagasse because I live in KwaZulu-Natal where there is an excess of sugarcane bagasse. Sugarcane bagasse is a solid residue that is left after the extraction of juice from sugarcane to make sugar.
Also, around the world, there is an excess of sugarcane bagasse of approximately 500 million wet tons (~250 million dry tons) produced annually (Chambon et al. 2018). The NREL discovered 14 platform chemicals that can be produced from biomass. The 14 platform chemicals are furfural, xylitol, glucaric acid, succinic acid, itaconic acid, aspartic acid, glycerol, 3-Hydroxypropionic acid, 3-Hydroxybutyrolactone, 5-HMF, sorbital, 2.5-furandicarboxylic acid, levulinic acid, itaconic acid, and glutamic acid (Werpy and Petersen, 2004).
Another challenge in the manufacturing of chemicals is high greenhouse gas emission which leads to global warming and climate change, consequently, there is more research interest in catalysts and solvents that releases negligible vapour. Hence, I am investigating an efficient and environmental method to produce chemicals from biomass. I aim to start a biorefinery company in South Africa that can employ many unemployed graduates, thus solving another problem which is a high rate of unemployment.
There is still a long way to go to truly achieve equity and a sense of belonging for women, be it within the research community or society in general. How do you envision yourself contributing to this space?
True, however, in my field there are already many women.
Many young people and adults are unaware of PhDs, so while I am a “doctor”, some people believe I am a medical doctor. I must explain the different types of doctors. When young people in my neighbourhood and church, and social media friends and classmates, see my accomplishments, they are inspired.
I contribute by motivating others and, as a lecturer, I make it a point to inform my students about my experience to encourage them and educate them on how to succeed as researchers. In addition, I supervise advanced students, Master’s and PhD students, the majority of whom are women.
What advice do you have for girls who are interested in STEM-related careers?
Girls should concentrate on their academics and excel since this is how they will be able to obtain funding and avoid having to worry about fees and other responsibilities. Choose a STEM-related profession that you are passionate about because studying is extremely difficult and requires a strong desire to succeed. Respect is essential in every profession, so they must respect everyone.
Given that I attended a township school with no laboratory, I am proud of what I have accomplished. I wish females could be educated to speak in public from a young age because, as researchers, you must present at local and international conferences. I would also like institutions to remind Diploma students that Master’s and PhD programs are mostly about writing so that they may prioritise their writing abilities early on.
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Women’s Month 2023: Dr Manoko Maubane-Nkadimeng
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