VUT AND RAND WATER EXPLORE COLLABORATION OPPORTUNITIES IN WATER RESEARCH
11 August 2023
In pursuit of commercially viable, socially relevant and environmental responsive collaborations in the future, a high-level delegation meeting between the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and Rand Water took place on 10 August 2023 at the bulk water utility’s Head Office in Glenvista, south of Johannesburg.
Led by VUT’s Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, Dr. Dan Mokoena and Dr. Fawcett Ngoatje, Head of the Rand Water Institute (RWI), the meeting primarily sought to lay a foundation for the collaboration of partnership by exploring possible areas of cooperation between the two entities. Accordingly, once signed, the partnership would not only strengthen relations, but also result in various multidisciplinary projects, including collaboration on water research initiatives and developing synergy in areas of mutual interest.
In his opening remarks, Dr Mokoena thanked the representatives from Rand Water, Africa’s largest bulk water utility and one of the largest in the world, for being keen to have such an explorative discussion. He explained that the engagement forms part of the institution’s ongoing efforts to explore collaboration opportunities with and cement its partnerships with industry. The meeting, he said, would go a long way in solidifying and formalizing the already existing relationship between VUT and Rand Water – citing that Rand Water has over the years absorbed students from the University on work integrated learning (WIL) and permanent employment opportunities.
On advancing the institution’s strategic objectives, he said the envisaged collaboration aligns to Goal 2 of VUT’s Strategic Plan, which places emphasis on enhancing research productivity and driving impactful research outcomes. “As an institution, we aim to strengthen our position as a leading research institution by enhancing research output,” Dr Mokoena told the RWI leadership. He further emphasized that there is ample research and innovation expertise at VUT to support the utility in developing sustainable solutions to improve water management – for the benefit of not just both entities, but the more than 11 million South Africans who get potable water from Rand Water.
By his own admission, Dr Ngoatje said the partnership between VUT and Rand Water was long overdue. This, he said, considering the University’s strong water research capacity which they could leverage on, and its favourable location on the banks of the Vaal River where the utility gets the bulk of its water from. He added that in order for Rand Water to respond appropriately to the challenges that face the water sector and to realise the objectives of its adopted innovation-driven, risk-based strategy, it relies on partnerships with various role players, both locally and globally. “We have already signed collaborative agreements with various research-based organisations, and institutions of higher learning to help us develop and implement innovative solutions through research. However, there remains a gap to be filled by VUT, especially in water management research,” he said, adding that in the interim, there are other collaborative opportunities to be explored.
During the meeting, the three Deputy Vice Chancellors (DVCs) and the Executive Deans of all four faculties at VUT made presentations detailing possible areas of collaboration and how they interface. Notably, on practicalising VUT qualifications and fostering valuable links to the world of work, an invitation was extended to Rand Water to participate on faculty advisory boards to ensure that the curriculum remains relevant and aligned to industry needs. Another critical area that was discussed at length was fostering innovation, promoting technology transfer, and facilitating commercialization through the VUT Technology Transfer Office – which Dr Ngoatje said forms a great part of their organisational strategy.
Mr Khathutshelo Maumela, a VUT alumnus and Manager: Research & Development, and Dr. Thinus Bekker, General Manager: Applied Research and Knowledge Transfer (both at RWI), gave a joint presentation on how RWI strives to be an innovation, research and development hub in integrated water resources management (IWRM) in Africa, saying that they cannot do it alone, they need collaborations.
In the end, after robust engagements and deliberations, it was concluded that a task team would be formed to draft a MOU which will be exchanged between the two parties in the coming weeks. Later when it is signed and sealed, an implementation committee will be formed to ensure that the MOU does not gather dust, and that all its aspects see the light of day.
VUT delegation included:
Dr Dan Mokena, Vice Chancellor and Principal: VUT (acting)
Prof Maggi Linington, DVC: Teaching and Learning, and Student Support Services (SSS)
Prof Raymond Mabuza, DVC: Resources and Planning (acting)
Dr Speech Nelana, DVC: Research, Innovation, Commercialisation and Internationalisation
Prof Christi Gobbler, Executive Dean: Faculty of Computer and Applied Science
Prof Chengedzai Mafini, Executive Dean: Faculty of Management Sciences
Prof Khaled Abou-El-Hossein, Executive Dean: Faculty of Engineering and Technology
Prof Lazarus Maleho, Executive Dean: Faculty of Human Sciences (acting)
Mr Maemo Kobi, Director: Technology Transfer and Innovation (acting)
Mr Dumile Mlambo: HOD: Corporate Communications