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The Directorate for Research and Postgraduate Support (RPS) in partnership with the Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI) Office under the auspices of the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation, and Engagement launched three new programmes that will be offered by the Research Office, via Microsoft Teams on Monday, 09 November 2020.

The newly introduced programmes are: DUT Social Innovation Lab (to strengthen DUT/Industry partnerships), Short Learning Program in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Research Commercialization and Short Learning Programme focusing on Advances in Environmental Waste Management: Waste-to-Profit Project Development Strategies.

Facilitating the webinar was DUT’s Research Director, Dr Linda Linganiso who was also one of the speakers.

Her presentation focused on Waste-to-Profit Project Development Strategies. She said a lot is going on in terms of recycling however there is still a massive amount of different waste streams which remain unutilised.

“There are a very few manufacturing industries to translate the different waste streams to value added products. This is our opportunity to tap into. DUT plans to improve resource utilisation efficiency while decreasing the environmental risk. Through this course we want to give staff members and students practical skills of translating different waste streams to money,” said Dr Linganiso.

Explaining how the new programmes are aligned with DUT’s Envision 2030, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo said all these efforts are helping DUT to build an innovation ecosystem within the university and also with partners outside the university.

“The launch of this programme is very important in terms of that alignment as part of the Envision 2030. Remember that as the university we want to remain one of the top and also relevant universities within our region. In order to do that, we have to make sure that we are paying attention to activities that make us stay on the map and also we continue to increase impact. We want our volume of research to increase, we want to increase the impact in terms of the global rankings,” said Prof Moyo.

She said despite targeting the graduates’ and students, these new programmes also looked at what the industry partners, employers want and expect from DUT students.

Prof Moyo said some of the graduates’ attributes listed by the industry partners were: entrepreneurship, innovation, creativity and professionalism.

“This can be done through the methods that we use, either by how we design the projects. When you look at our Envision 2030, it focuses a lot on innovation and entrepreneurship. We have done a number of audits which showed us the areas we need to focus on. The first area was trying to introduce a curriculum that focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation. These programmes are aligned to Envision 2030, they are aligned very well with the perspective on Stewardship that deals with creativity. It talks about inspiring innovation and entrepreneurship around creativity,” said Prof Moyo.

Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI) Director, Prof Kelebogile Motaung said people often talk about innovation and entrepreneurship and forget about commercialisation.

She said commercialisation is part and parcel of innovation, because if you innovate and don’t commercialise it will not help.

“We have a lot of things running in the university that are innovated but not commercialised. I think commercialisation is missing, we need to start bringing commercialisation as part of innovation. We are good at doing idea, proof of concept and we stop there. If you forget about commercialisation, how are you going to take your product to the service? We need to first understand the technology radius level of each product. We also need to understand who are our customers, it’s crucial to know your market when you are doing research. You need to understand how you are going to make money out of your research and also know what problems you are solving,” said Prof Motaung.

Speaking about DUT’s Social Innovation Lab, Vaneshree Govender from the Directorate for Research and Postgraduate Support said the Social Innovation Labs offer a unique process that involves diverse stakeholders in a given field, creating an environment conducive to innovation and experimentation.

“The Social Innovation Lab refers to a process that brings together many stakeholders to address complex social problems involving research, experimentation, prototyping and testing solutions. Social Innovation provides a unique opportunity to step back from a narrow way of thinking about social enterprises, business engagement and philanthropy. It recognises the interconnectedness of various factors and stakeholders, to develop better solutions while building the innovation capacity,” said Govender.

The lab fits in the Envision 2030 by the Society perspective, in an engaged university objective. She said the private sector recognises high return offered by partnerships with universities as these partnerships drive innovation.

Dr Ferai Dziike from Research and Postgaduate Support who spoke about Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Research Commercialization course said this is a call to researchers and academics who are engaged in research work that can be interpreted into technology, into a business.

“The whole essence is to build a thriving, innovative, while we are targeting graduates in the entrepreneurial culture at DUT. The whole concept is to migrate knowledge-based research to community problem solving research. Who knows you might be sitting with a solution to some of the problems that we have. Let us see what you have in store for us and we will point you in the right direction. Those of you who have got their research work in order will walk out of this course with a clear view, probably a business in a briefcase that it awaiting to be implemented,” said Dr Dziike.

Pictured: Some of the guests who attended the Research Office’s launch of new programmes

Picture 2: The different faculties under the Durban University of Technology

Simangele Zuma

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