Postgraduate students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines will receive full financial backing, in line with efforts to bolster the skills pipeline in the renewables energy sector.
In a statement, the NRF says the partnership agreement aims to strengthen the responsiveness of the national system of innovation to the energy challenges, by developing innovative skills development programmes.
It will also promote inclusive and diverse skilling of highly-qualified individuals from traditionally-marginalised groups, with a focus on South African citizens who are black, female or persons living with a disability.
The immediate outcome of the partnership, notes the statement, is the establishment of the NRF-EM Education Trust Scholarship Programme.
This will commence with the provision of funding opportunities for 38 honours students for the 2023 academic year, with an initial investment of R6.8 million, with master’s and doctoral programmes to start in 2024.
“The EM Education Trust has championed the attainment of formal qualifications in STEM and commerce for over eight years,” says the trust’s CEO Vuyo Mwase.
“However, we recognise the dearth of funding of postgraduate studies. As such, this complementary and strategic partnership with the NRF strengthens our position and commitment to narrowing this gap.
“Additionally, our partnership will augment the much-needed innovation in developing and managing the current and emerging renewable energy systems.”
According to the statement, funding for postgraduate students will be made available in the STEM disciplines of mathematical science, data science, computer science, green economy, renewable energy and climate change studies.
The first phase will support students from the universities of Fort Hare, Limpopo, Pretoria, Witwatersrand, Western Cape and Johannesburg.
“The scholarship programme comes at a critical time, as South Africa strives to respond to energy and climate change challenges, among many other national concerns,” states Dr Mbulelo Ncango, acting executive director of human and infrastructure capacity development at NRF.
“This partnership is aligned with national policy goals on higher education, science and technology, such as the strengthening of human resource development and the creation of an enabling environment for innovation in South Africa.”