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May 30, 2008

Nanotechnology holds many socioeconomic challenges

© Reuse this Significant investment and research are being applied to the science of nanotechnology and, last week, one more contribution was made – the launch of the La Villette nanotechnology exhibition at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, in Newtown, Johannesburg.

This international exhibition is a partnership between the Department of Science and Tech-nology (DST), the French government, and the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.

Nanotechnology, has traditionally been defined as building things from the bottom up, and is the technology of an atom, which potentially holds the key to new materials, which could improve the quality of life of South Africans, as well as position the country to compete on a global level.

The exhibition comprises four focus areas that present the foundations, techniques, applications and issues around nanotechnology through the use of posters, videos and interactive displays.

The exhibition is a concrete example of the strong collaboration in science and tech- nology between France and South Africa, says DST emerging research areas and infrastructure MD Daniel Adams.

“Given that nanotechnology is new in South Africa, this exhibition is also necessary to create awareness of the science, together with its challenges and benefits,” says Adams.

“The benefits of nanotechnology, both economically and socially, have been proven inter- nationally. South Africa has identified and realised these benefits, to the extent that we have developed a nanotechnology strategy, which delves into two main clusters: the social cluster, which deals with water and energy research, and the industrial cluster, which delves into mining and minerals, and the development of advanced materials,” Adams tells Engineering News.

The South African government has invested R170-million in nanotechnology research for the period of 2006 to 2009.

Location for this exhibition was a key ingredient to creating awareness of nanotechnology. Also, the exhibition was launched during the National Science Week, which targets the general public, and more specifically high school learners, as part of government’s mandate to renew interest in science and technology, and to promote human capital development in the future.

“We have a very good relationship with the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, which has a mission to provide access to science for young South Africans, which is very important for the future, as South Africa has [great] ambition for develop- ing science and technology. At the same time, it also needs the human capabilities, and it is important that a country like France, which has expertise, can share this with South Africa,” French ambassador to South Africa Denis Pietton tells Engineering News.

France has developed an ambitious pro-gramme in nanotechnology in the last seven years, and is considered to be one of the most advanced countries in nanotechnology research, and ranks as the fifth-largest investor in this science globally.

Pietton says that science is about sharing, and not the isolation of knowledge. “We are happy to rank among the key partners of South Africa, and the programmes we implement in the future together, not only in the field of nanotechnology, imply human exchanges that we want to develop in the future,” he adds.

“We are aware of the skills shortage in South Africa. The relationship with South Africa is of the highest level of scientific excellence because South Africa has the capabilities to deal with this. We are committed to strengthening capa- city, through a skills and research transfer between both countries in the form of exchange students and scientists. In this context, it is important to note that South Africa is not behind in its research of nanotechnology, but is on a different level, compared with France. And both countries are involved in an exchange of knowledge,” concludes French embassy counsellor for science, culture and development Samuel Elmaleh.

Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor
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