South Africa’s Science and Technology Minister, Dr Mosibudi Mangena, on Monday said that he was pleased with the country’s progress on nanotechnology, and the “relatively early” adoption of these disciplines.
South Africa’s National Nanotechnology Strategy was launched in 2005.
South Africa is supporting the development of nanoscience and nanotechnology research in Africa, and particularly within the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“During our term as chair of SADC, South Africa will also ensure that a platform is created for regional dialogue in this area,” he said, speaking at the NanoAfrica 2009 conference.
“The SADC Heads of State approved a protocol on science, technology and innovation (STI) in August last year, and in December the SADC Ministers for STI met and mandated the development of a SADC science, technology, and innovation strategy, in which nanotechnology will be one of the priority areas.”
Mangena highlighted that his department had also endorsed the creation of the Nanocentre for Africa at the iThemba Laboratories for Acclerator Based Sciences (iThemba LABS).
“The centre is the continental platform for nanoscience and nanotechnology, and its aim is to produce solutions to pressing socio-economic problems related to health, water and energy.”
The African nanocentre will network both within and without the continent, to achieve integration of African programmes with larger international ones. It will undertake human capital development. It will also communicate with, and market to, Africa’s business sectors, and decision-makers.
It will have regional and national nodes, with the main lode at iThemba LABS.
Mangena pointed out that South Africa’s National Nanotechnology Strategy had identified six “focus areas” for nanotechnology research in South Africa. These are: chemicals and bioprocessing, energy, health, materials and manufacturing, mining and minerals, and water.
To oversee the research projects in these areas, a Nanotechnology Advisory Board has been created.
To actually undertake the required research, two national nanotechnology innovation centres were set up in 2007, housed at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and at Mintek, respectively.
Located at the CSIR, and supported jointly by the research agency and by the Department of Science and Technology, the National Centre for Nano-Structured Materials focuses on research into energy and into materials.
The centre at Mintek is concerned with health, mining and minerals, and water.
In addition, a nanoscience centre has been set up at the University of the Western Cape, which will focus on teaching nanoscience, and so strengthen the development of the human capital the country needs to operate in these spheres. Also, research chairs in various areas of nanotechnology have been established at several universities.
The NanoAfrica 2009 conference is taking place at the CSIR conference centre in Pretoria.