Science Park proves its worth

Science Park proves its worth

Selina Rapulane

The Vaal University of Technology’s Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park (VUTSGSTP) operates a unique, world-class Additive Manufacturing precinct specialising in assisting entrepreneurs develop product prototypes and employs engineers, scientists and designers.

The precinct owns 172 hectares of land with infrastructure such as large auditoriums, office space and incubation facilities. It is located in Sebokeng, in the Vaal region and is surrounded by major partners such as Arcelor Mittal and Sasol, with easy access to road and rail services.

It aims to align government priorities and their competitive advantage. It services clients in various sectors such as fashion; hospitality, tourism; and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), however, its core focus includes the Technology Station, VUT Enterprise and Enterprise Development Unit.

There are six technology platforms that have been developed to support researchers and entrepreneurs conduct research and develop prototypes, namely: The Technology Station in Sebokeng and Upington, in partnership with Technology Innovation Agency (TIA); the Idea to Product (I2P) lab; the Centre of Footwear Entrepreneurship (COFE); the F’SASEC electrical workshop, in partnership with Schneider Electric; the E-Waste Container Project; and the Energy Optimisation Unit (EOU). These technology platforms are ready to generate income; however, they need additional equipment, skilled personnel and an appropriate business model.

Under the technology station, there are five departments that are doing exceptionally well and deliver quality service:

  • The AMP focuses on advanced product design and manufacturing for industries, particularly the foundry and pioneering manufacturing sector. It offers services such as advanced design and additive manufacturing, using state-of-the-art 3D printing technology.
  • The Casting Simulation Network is aimed at providing local foundries, including small and medium enterprises, with access to casting process simulation software and skills to enable the revitalisation of the South African foundry industry. Its benefits include reduction of trials, scrap and cost while improving products development cycle and product optimisation.
  • The Centre of Footwear Entrepreneurship (CoFE) focuses on innovation, skills development and technology transfer. Their mission is to build and improve capacity in the manufacturing and related value chain of the footwear, leather and leather goods sectors in South Africa, and strengthen skills.
  • The EOU provides access to professional services that offer optimal hybrid energy solutions tailored to people’s energy needs. The services it provides are: alternative methods of energy production for industrial and domestic use and the management of water resources.
  • The Enterprise Development Unit (EDU) is the technology transfer office of the University and it focuses mainly on technology transfer. It offers services such as Intellectual Property Services, Legal Support Services, Commercialisation Services and Short Learning Programmes.

The Science Park’s Public Relations, Marketing and Communications department hosted more than a hundred events in the past four years, as well as participated in various events to showcase the Science Park. Key events included hosting four ministers (former Ministers of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor and Mmamoloko Kubuyi-Ngubane, Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu and Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams) as well as the honourable Gauteng Premier David Makhura.

Annual events include the Rand Show, RAPDASA and SATN, among others. Most of our political guests and industry partners are very complimentary and supportive of the Science Park vision. The PR team also published more than 30 internal newsletters to keep the VUT community informed about Science Park activities.

The VUT Science Park is a young concept that was initiated in 2012. It is currently making the transition from the Technology and Innovation Directorate (TTI), which was tasked with developing the Science Park; hence some people still refer to it as TTI.

“It is worth noting that TTI is just one component of a Science Park. We hope to make the full transition to the Science Park, where we will operate the precinct as an independent entity with a commercial business model,” said Dr Joseph Molete: Executive Director.

With its good name and professional workmanship, it continues to support enterprise and regional industrial development, fostering research, innovation and technology development, fostering partnerships and communicate impact, as well as develop an efficient and financially sustainable organisation.

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