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The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Dr Farai Dziike, is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Technology Transfer and Innovation Directorate (TTI). He shares his academic and entrepreneurial journey as well as the research work he is currently involved in. 

He is also a Research Commercialization Assistant in the TTI Directorate as well as an academic entrepreneur involved in conversion of academic research into innovation technology and business development. 

His current research is in the focus area of Biomass and Sustainability – Conversion of biomass into innovation and green materials for the Circular Economy products.

Speaking further on his role at DUT, he relayed that in the Research and Postgraduate office, he was involved in identifying research work across the university that can be commercialised.

“The research work was assessed for potential commercialisation through translating the work either as an invention, innovation technology, new product development or business service that can be turned into a profitable business or have industrial application. The translated research work is designed to be aligned with an industry partner for relevant environment application, testing, marketing or validation with the researcher under an industrial expert mentorship. I have been in that role for over a year now,” he said.

He also shared what is the upcoming attractions from this TTI Directorate, saying that the forthcoming attraction from this sector is the extension of research projects to undergraduate students within DUT and expanding the scope of undergraduate assignments and course projects into commercialisable engagements.

“This implies that the TTI Directorate and RPS will work with academic stuff to introduce the concept of assigning their students work that address a real industrial, socio-economic problem with the aim of coming up with solutions that may be translated into inventions, innovation technology, models, or intervention services that may be commercialised, hence introducing our undergraduate students to entrepreneurship,” he said.

He indicated further that this initiative is already being driven by Ms Ntokozo Ndlela and supported by the coordinator of the SURE programme, Dr Anisa Vahed, through the TTI Directorate headed by Professor Keolebogile Motaung.

“Under this initiative, l am working with 10 pairs of students doing interesting non-academic projects aligned to Bio-economy and new trends of waste recycling in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he stressed.

Dr Dziike explained how his role intertwined with ENVISION2030, conveying that his role is to carry out activities that serve the portfolio of the DVC for Research, Innovation and Engagement operating in the DUT TTI Directorate office. 

“My activities are crafted around the DUT ENVISION2030 Strategic Plan more especially around the first two parameters of the DUT 2030 statement of intent which states that by 2030:

– Our people will be creative, innovative, entrepreneurial and adaptive to changes in the world;

– Our people will participate productively in the development of our region, country and the world.

My engagement with academics, researchers and students in the university is to create an influence that impact on the leveraging of innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives in the academic space of the university,” he said.

He added that the focus is tailored around coordinating departments to provide curricula that stimulates creativity and innovation to generate new knowledge and solutions that will eventually be translated into commercialisable outputs. 

He also relayed some of the sectors achievements, indicating that the TTI Directorate and RPS have created platforms for harnessing the innovation prowess of the DUT community and opened up entrepreneurial opportunities for both academics/researchers and students.

“Through a series of workshops and different engagements, we have managed to bring a number of industry partners to collaborate with members of the DUT community under various focus areas including the food-water-energy nexus, biomass and bio-economy, to mention but a few. These partnerships will see students and academics working with both local and international industry partners such as Toyota and Volvo South Africa, The EU Business consortiums, The Black Business Council (BBC) etc. A number of MOUs and EOIs are currently being mooted to make the engagements official,” he said.

In terms of research, Dr Dziike said that there are a number of challenges where research is concerned as DUT forges ahead with its initiatives.

“Most of our researchers are conservative towards research such that the disruptive research initiatives are not yielding the anticipated impact and result,” he said.

He indicated that there a series of workshops running in the university which is going a long way in changing this narrative in some departments of the university.

“Plans are also underway to provide support to all the departments through financial and infrastructural resources to attract a positive response and active participation of stakeholders in the university through the DVC RIE office,” he said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, he indicated that it has had a devastating impact on research especially among students.

“The students are always the foot soldiers in any university research setup. Thus COVID-19 brought restrictions that has restricted execution of research and in some instances bringing research to a complete stand still. “A turnaround strategy is being knitted by the TTI director Prof Motaung, to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on research activities in the university in conjunction with research heads of various departments,” he said.



Dr Farai Dziike has his [BSc Chemical Technology (MSU, Zim), MSc Materials Chemistry (Wits, SA), PhD (Heterogeneous Catalysis Materials Chemistry) (Wits, SA), WBS (Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship)]. He is a finalist in the 2020-2021 Global Cleantech Innovation Programme. Dr Dziike is the founder of Indoni YaManzi HydroTech Solutions, a spinoff company from his PhD work, currently incubated at The Innovation Hub Management Company (TIHMC).

Pictured: Dr Farai Dziike

Waheeda Peters

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