New CSIR strategy focuses on Industry 4.0

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 27 May 2019
CSIR board chairman professor Thokozani Majozi (left) and CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini.
CSIR board chairman professor Thokozani Majozi (left) and CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has introduced a strategy that sets out to create strong partnerships with the private sector and innovation partners to contribute to the requirements of the fourth industrial revolution.

The new strategy, outlined at a media briefing on Friday, seeks to leverage the CSIR’s strong science, engineering and technology capabilities, to build on development opportunities, particularly in the industrial manufacturing sector as required by its mandate, according to the council.  

The strategy focuses on nine synergistic clusters, which will help with the development and commercialisation of industrial technologies to deliver the desired impact through collaboration with a host of public and private sector stakeholders, including funding partners, industry associations, higher education institutions, and innovation partners.

As part of this implementation, the organisation says it will conduct high-quality and relevant research and technological innovation to foster scientific and industrial development.

Speaking at the media briefing, chairperson of the CSIR board, professor Thokozani Majozi, shared the organisation’s plans and focus areas.

“The technologies that we develop must be aligned with the needs of industry and should assist in improving the lives of our people. The ultimate goal plan is to harness our resources and skills to support government and industry, thereby collectively contributing to the alleviation of unemployment, inequality and poverty in SA.”

This CSIR strategy is the culmination of a process called Project Synapse, which officially started in 2017 when the organisation embarked on a journey to amplify the ‘I’ in the ‘CSIR’.

The vision behind this initiative was to broaden the scope of growth opportunities for the organisation by deepening its relationships with industry, in a manner that fosters industrial development.

The organisation says it went through a rigorous consultative process with internal and external stakeholders to formulate the new strategy, which considered the national imperatives as stipulated in the Sustainable Development Goals, the National Development Plan, and the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation.

The nine clusters are next-gen health, advanced agriculture and food, future production (chemicals), future production (mining), future production (manufacturing), defence and security, smart places, next-gen enterprises and institutions, and smart logistics.

The clusters will address national priorities, including public good science, potential for socio-economic impact and the requirements of the fourth industrial revolution, according to the CSIR.

Dr Thulani Dlamini, CEO of CSIR, explained the new strategy provides a clear direction on how the CSIR innovates and localises technologies in collaboration with other organisations, contributing to the sustainable advancement of industry and the broader society.

“The successful implementation of the CSIR strategy will accelerate socio-economic prosperity in SA. Rolling out this strategy will create a balance between the support we provide to the public sector and government to contribute to industrial development,” Dlamini pointed out.

Among the private organisations the CSIR is working with is healthcare group Lighthouse Healthcare, manufacturer Marple, eco-friendly products producer OptimusBio, nutritional products manufacturer Sfera Nutrition, and chemical manufacturer Origen Chemicals.

Dlamini noted an array of technologies are ready for commercialisation and need industry partners, citing a smart sensor developed to monitor indoor airborne infection risks, such as the spread of tuberculosis.

The local manufacturing industry's role in the South African economy has seen a long and sustained decline: from contributing nearly a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1980s, to now only contributing 13% of the annual GDP.

KPMG recently reported that two out of three manufacturing CEOs are anxious about their ability to keep pace with technology.

To reignite the sector, industry bodies have set out ambitious growth targets. The Manufacturing Circle, the industry's voice, launched its 'Map to a Million New Jobs in a Decade' plan, which aims to expand manufacturing's contribution to the country's GDP to 30% and create between 800 000 and 1.1 million direct jobs, as well as five to eight times as many indirect jobs, in the process.