The University of Pretoria (UP) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), have signed a memorandum of agreement to collaborate in the areas of smart transport, cities and environments.
“The cooperation means that UP can focus on creating a pipeline of potential researchers in these areas,” says UP Department of Civil Engineering head professor Wynand Steyn.
He says smart transport, cities and environments are part of an integrated system that encompasses transportation systems, parking management, traffic congestion and the environment.
The aim is to reduce energy consumption levels in transportation, maximise productivity in industry and provide a higher quality of life for citizens.
“In order to work towards smart cities, there is a need to develop researchers with advanced skills in robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and satellite technology,” says Steyn.
“To this end, researchers will be trained through complementary skills at UP and the CSIR.”
This will further develop the skills pool required to design, construct, maintain and rehabilitate the extensive road network in the country, which is vital for accessibility and mobility of its communities, and in support of economic opportunities, notes Steyn.
“The Smart Mobility Cluster of the CSIR sees the collaboration with the engineering faculty of UP as an integral component of its strategic initiative to address transport and infrastructure challenges in the country and the continent,” adds CSIR Smart Mobility executive cluster manager Kenny Kistan.
“This will undoubtedly contribute to improving and advancing economic activity. This partnership will enable us to share our expertise to accelerate technology solutions in South Africa’s smart mobility sector.
“Besides, this initiative is a positive start to co-create scientific knowledge and multifaceted technological innovation and solutions, which is in line with our implementation plan and is linked to CSIR’s mandate to support and strengthen industrial activity in the country.”
This collaboration includes the cooperative use of the CSIR laboratories and UP’s Engineering 4.0 campus.
These facilities allow for larger research projects to be executed, with the involvement of postgraduate students.
The collaboration also entails jointly working towards the establishment of a CSIR Research Chair in Smart Mobility at UP.
This chair funds senior researchers and postgraduate students who will conduct research in areas of targeted need.
UP Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT) dean Professor Sunil Maharaj says the Engineering 4.0 building, which will be unveiled soon, hosts Africa’s first independent transport reference and testing facility, which will test materials for the road construction industry.
“Such testing will characterise materials for appropriate construction and maintenance. It is also a research and training hub for smart transport systems.”
Engineering 4.0 is an initiative between UP, the South African National Roads Agency and the CSIR.