South Africa’s CSIR celebrates 70 years of research

13 October 2015

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is celebrating its 70th birthday this year, and at its annual two day conference, held on 8 and 9 October, the focus was on the impact and breakthroughs the organisation has had over the past seven decades.

Besides hosting the conference, the CSIR is also educating the public on its work and achievements via radio, print and television broadcasts.

The CSIR is one of the leading science and technology research, development and implementation organisations in Africa. Constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1945 as a science council, the CSIR is committed to supporting innovation in South Africa to improve national competitiveness in the global economy.

Advertising campaign

Phase two of its advertising campaign started on 12 October, according to Tendani Tsedu, the group’s spokesperson. “This is the first advertising campaign for the CSIR. We wanted to show the public how the work that is being done by the CSIR affects them on a daily basis,” he explained.

It falls under the Ideas that Work initiative. In one of the videos, the narrator asks the question: “What if there were people who were quietly working to make your life better, without you even knowing?”

Watch one of the advertisements being shown on South African television channels till 10 December:

Tsedu said the aim of the advertising was to show the impact of the CSIR’s research on society, industry and other sectors. “Another factor (for the advertising) was to increase the visibility of the CSIR and also to attract young people towards science. We want them to know that science is fun and exciting.”

In just one recent innovation, in 2013 CSIR researchers developed the world’s first digital laser. It was regarded as a milestone in laser technology and could spur future laser-related innovations.

The team found that laser beams could be digitally controlled from within a laser device. Their findings were published in the prestigious Nature Communications journal, on 2 August 2013.

Find out how to make the CSIR your career choice:

The conference

The CSIR’s 5th conference was attended last week by 1 500 delegates, said Tsedu. Guests included Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, members of the science and technology portfolio committee, research partners such as Eskom, Transnet and the South African National Defence Force, and university students.

Speaking on the first day, Ramaphosa said that continuous investment in research and development was critical for South Africa to achieve the goals of its National Development Plan (NDP).

“The NDP says that science and technology must be used to address some of the problems in education, health and economic development, and it must facilitate access to information and knowledge,” said Ramaphosa.

Watch the deputy president explain why the government will invest in solution- driven technology:

Research out of the lab

At the conference, CSIR scientists presented their work to the public. About 20 exhibitions covered energy, health, defence, built environment, ICT, natural environment and industry.

Tendani Tsedu

Tendani Tsedu of CSIR said during their 5th Conference the scientists had an opportunity to present their work to the public. (Image: Supplied)

“They had a chance to take the research out of the lab and discuss it in an open forum,” said Tsedu. “The robust debates and engagement with the industry, government departments, businesses and other science councils were inspiring and constructive.

“Those who attended (the conference) now have a better idea of what is the CSIR and how can they use science to solve issues that they are facing,” he added.

Another highlight was the launch of a commercial product with Nestle South Africa. The CSIR teamed up with the Agriculture Research Council, Nestle and University of Fort Hare to develop Maggi 2 Minute Noodles with morogo, or African spinach. This product, which is already available in supermarkets, is a good example of what can be achieved if private and public companies work together to address issues such as unemployment and poverty.

Delegates tweeted about the sessions:

Interesting sessions

“The focus was on the research that the CSIR is doing to find a cure for malaria,” Tsedu explained about the health session. The conference also looked at research on food to be used in school feeding schemes, e-health and “many other exciting work in this field”.

Prof Lynn Morris, the head of the HIV virology laboratories in the Centre of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, was a speaker. She gave a keynote address titled “Towards an antibody- based HIV vaccine.”

Source: South Africa.info reporter