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Incentives - Increasing Competitiveness

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At the CSIR, a convergence of skills and facilities in biotechnology, chemistry, agroprocessing, food science and engineering coupled with industrial and commercial experience combine to provide competitive and cutting-edge bioscience knowledge. This is translated into innovations and solutions towards the improvement of health, food security and energy provision for a competitive bio-economy for South Africa and Africa.

A core focus of the unit is on innovation to bridge the gap between fundamental research and commercial exploitation. Research activities focus on creating novel and highly competitive technologies and products that can be developed in South Africa through new start-up ventures or in partnership with existing enterprises.

Research is currently structured into several competency areas, each with a number of smaller research groups spanning the drug and therapeutic discovery value chain as well as the bioprocessing and product development arena, to allow focussed and effective research leadership of key focal areas that embrace national priorities. The unit's focus is on strengthening these platforms and building the value chain to optimise impact in the external environment.

The CSIR's research activities in the built environment are aimed at supporting South Africa's competitive performance and the welfare and quality of life of its people through knowledge-generation for the development of an efficient and globally competitive built environment system.

Solutions developed through research and innovation impact on the following areas:

  • Provision of housing and improved human habitats;
  • Provision of infrastructure, such as roads and ports;
  • Increased access and mobility;
  • Rural development of infrastructure (with a specific focus on poverty reduction and job creation);
  • Human resource development of professionals in the built environment;
  • Safety and personal security;
  • Environmental sustainability;
  • Better public buildings (including health facilities and schools);
  • Improved service delivery in the public sector.

At the CSIR, science and technology (S&T) is hard at work for a peaceful, safe and prosperous South Africa. The organisation has developed strong S&T capabilities through its associations with key players in defence, safety and security-related fields, thereby also contributing to the country's international competitiveness.

The CSIR - through its expertise in defence, peace, safety and security - serves as the 'in-house' S&T capability of key government departments and agencies in defence, peace, safety and security. CSIR Defence, Peace, Safety and Security provides a national defence S&T capability: supplying knowledge, advice and solutions in defence and matters of national security.

Specifically, it aims to provide a defence evaluation and research institute capability for the Department of Defence.

CSIR Defence, Peace, Safety and Security also:

  • Partners with the local defence and aerospace industries to improve strategic capabilities and international competitiveness;
  • Collaborates and undertakes joint projects with selected international and local organisations and laboratories;
  • Develops and maintains national research facilities and infrastructure;
  • Contributes to national science, engineering and technology themes, industry development initiatives and to a new generation of scientists and engineers in the defence, aerospace and security fields;
  • Contributes to an improved understanding of crime, violence and conflict through the application of innovative S&T solutions.

The CSIR's expertise in the defence, peace, safety and security domain covers numerous areas, with focused research groupings contributing to these areas.

Aeronautic systems
Research efforts centre on developing and applying S&T capabilities in the areas of experimental and computational aeromechanics as well as in aerostructures. The combination of talented engineers, scientists and technicians with modern facilities - including wind tunnels, structural test facilites and computer clusters - has resulted in a hub of world-class aeronautical expertise.

Typical activities and competencies include wind-tunnel testing; material specification and testing; helicopter structural and aerodynamic technology; gas turbine engine technology; air weapons flow and structural characterisation; flutter analysis and prediction; store carriage and release prediction; computational fluid dynamics (CFD); portal ground vibration testing (GVT); flutter flight test software and hardware systems; simulation-based acquisition and operational support; mechanical weapons and store integration; and aircraft structures technology.

Landwards sciences

In this research field, the focus is on studies, research, design, development, modelling, simulation, testing, measurement and evluations in detonics, ballistics, protection and operator support systems. The group prides itself on being neutral, independent advisors and acts as consultants in procurement, operational support, test and evaluation. The majority of explosive landwards work is performed at the CSIR's detonics, ballistics and explosive laboratory, situated at Paardefontein outside Pretoria. It offers specialised services in the R&D cycle - from research to industrialisation in the fields of specialist vehicles, landmine and ballistic protected vehicles, specialist soldier equipment, specialised weapons, bomb disposal and borderline control technologies.

Specific skills are clustered in research groups and includes the protection against mine and other explosive threat events, explosive ordnance disposal and improvised explosive devices disposals, mine clearance, specialised weapons and explosives, vehicle and mobility, security, shaped charge/self forming fragments warhead technologies, ballistic protection, soldier systems, human response (blunt trauma, explosive event and terminal ballistics), autonomous intelligent systems, electromagnetic pulse and vehicle landmine protection validation and certification testing in accordance with RSA-MIL-STD 37.

Optronic sensor systems

Research focuses on new and novel electro-optic sensors; the modelling, simulation, engineering, testing, evaluation and development of advanced electro-optical sensor systems for day, night and multispectral surveillance. In addition, researchers evaluate and design countermeasure and electronic warfare techniques in the visual and infrared wavelengths.

Specific research groups include optronic survivability, optical surveillance systems, modelling and simulation, photonic technologies and test and evaluation, and measurement science.

Radar and electronic warfare systems

R&D is undertaken to detect, track, measure, identify, protect and implement countermeasures for sensors operating in the microwave spectrum. The main application relates to national defence and security. Specialist research groups include radar and electronic warfare research and applications, experimental electronic warfare systems and experimental radar systems and testing.

Safety and security

The CSIR has, over the past 10 years, dedicated S&T capabilities to support the criminal justice system in combating crime; to enable a better understanding of the causes of crime and violence; and to develop interventions to address crime at local level. In this domain, the CSIR aims to be the knowledge-driven, science-based capacity that supports government in finding innovative solutions to the problems of crime and violence in the achievement of a safe South Africa. The crime combating research group provides technology support through scientific disciplines in response to the needs of criminal justice and related stakeholders, as well as offering a dedicated capability focused on finding solutions to, and preventing cyber crime. Crime prevention research aims to integrate approaches across a range of disciplines incorporating criminology, systems and human sciences in search of preventative solutions to crime and violence.

Command, control and information warfare

This research focuses on the synthesis of mathematical, computational and non-quantitative models of complex and networked systems to study emergent behaviour and to propose functional solutions to difficult problems.

In facilitating the discovery of answers and solutions to so-called 'hard problems', where mostly complexity science approaches must be followed to find sets of feasible solutions and where multiple causalities might not be the only drivers, systems modelling becomes an enabler to other research areas. At the same time, it focuses research efforts in the appropriate branches of decision under uncertainty and complexity sciences as we understand them today. Research groups include mathematical and computational modelling, complex adaptive and netted systems, systems engineering and socio-technical systems.

Technology for special operations

The focus of researchers in this domain is to develop and apply technology to meet the unique requirement of South African special operations organisations. The activities cover research, design, development, manufacturing, testing, simulation, operational support and professional services. The group has strategic relations with South African special operations organisations and focuses on land, air and maritime applications.

The Meraka Institute is a large-scale intervention in the information and communications technology space to address challenges in both the developed economy (integrated with the global economy) and the emergent economy (characterised by informal economic activity and poverty).

The institute was launched in in May 2005. As a national research, it is managed by the CSIR and supported by the Departments of Communication and of Science and Technology.

The institute aims to facilitate national economic and social development through human capital development; application innovation (realising societal benefits through more applied R&D) and advanced research in selected technology domains relevant to the local context, in cooperation with tertiary education institutions.

The institute leverages the potential of free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) in the local context by supporting its awareness and adoption. In addition, FLOSS is embedded as an underlying philosophy in its research and development programmes.

The term, meraka, means communal grazing land, to be used productively, either privately or communally, and kept for the common good. The institute espouses the spirit of digital meraka and welcomes discussion with those interested in exploring the possibility of partnering.

Meraka Institute initiatives and projects promote the use of ICT for education and training, improved accessibility to information and services, low-cost connectivity and applications of earth observation, and to support people with disabilities. New areas of research and innovation are under development.
The CSIR provides a critical core of laser technology knowledge and expertise through the research, development and implementation of laser based technologies and applications in Africa. This knowledge, housed at the CSIR National Laser Centre, enables the South African industry to improve their global competitiveness and expand their market share. The CSIR National Laser Centre works closely with local higher education institutions and supports laser related research at these institutions. 
The basics of laser physics
The laser is a light source that exhibits unique properties. Lasers dominate our modern world in a variety of forms ranging from tiny diode lasers in all CD and DVD players to large industrial lasers to cut and weld.

Current laser research at the CSIR
Current CSIR laser research aims to improve laser technology in manufacturing; to develop novel laser sources; to develop light activated bio-nanodevices and to improve various therapeutic and diagnostic medical applications of lasers.

• Novel laser sources
• Ultra short physics spectroscopy
• Mathematical optics
• Biophotonics
• Laser Materials Processing 
Custodians of the national laser infrastructure
With administrative and financial support from the National Research Foundation (NRF), the CSIR runs an access grant scheme that makes unique laser equipment and diagnostics available to South African researchers in laser-related fields. This initiative is called the Rental Pool Programme.

Numerous highly equipped in-house laboratories are used by CSIR researchers to conduct research in multi-disciplinary fields such as nanotechnology, spectroscopy and laser beams. The facility allows a broad spectrum of researchers access to high quality laser research equipment, information and technical support, throughout South Africa and to others on the African continent.

The African Laser Centre
The African Laser Centre was created to develop much-needed laser research capacity, infrastructure, technology transfer and applications, throughout Africa.

Public understanding of laser science and engineering
The CSIR National Laser Centre runs a public awareness campaign, aptly named Pulse – Public Understanding of Laser Science and Engineering. Through the Pulse programme, the CSIR communicates its laser activities to the general public and also creates a broader community awareness of the economic and social benefits of science, engineering and technology (SET).
Research and innovation in the field of materials science and manufacturing by the CSIR, its partners and stakeholders, aim to improve industry competitiveness, national human resource development and quality of life for all South Africans.

The CSIR is in a unique position to add value and impact to the materials and manufacturing industries in Africa and to develop human capital. A major competitive advantage is the wide coverage of materials and manufacturing disciplines within one unit. This enables CSIR Materials Science and Manufacturing to conduct true multi-disciplinary research and solution development within these fields.

The CSIR's expertise in this domain has been consolidated in five competence areas, each consisting of a number of research groupings, as well as the National Centre for Nano-structured Materials (NCNSM).
The CSIR conducts core research and develops competencies in various strategically critical areas of the natural resources and the environment (NRE) fields of study. Through relevant and focused research, CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment seeks to address the significant challenges regarding sustainable development in South Africa, with a focus on the optimal utilisation of natural resources in support of economic growth and human wellbeing. The research themes that underpin the CSIR’s core research activities in this domain include coupled land, water and marine ecosystems, energy futures, environmental assessment and management, forestry resources, mineral resources, pollution and waste, sustainability science, and water futures.

The CSIR’s vision in terms of natural resources and the environment is “to be the world-leading research and development player, contributing to the optimal utilisation of the natural resource base for the sustainable benefit of South Africa and Africa”. In line with the broader CSIR mandate, the aim is to conduct world-class, directed, inter-disciplinary research and technological innovation, with partners and stakeholders, in the field(s) of natural resources and the environment to contribute to the social, economic and environmental improvement of South Africa and Africa.

A key aspect of CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment’s research strategy is the deliberate investment in science that is relevant and applied. As a result, the research is guided by sustainability science, which seeks to learn about interactions among humans, their technologies and the ecosystem services that sustain them, and to apply this learning to address urgent problems of economic development and environmental management.

Research themes
The eight research themes are headed by small teams of highly qualified and experienced scientists. The research and development projects are executed in each of these groups.

Coupled land, water and marine ecosystems
Coupled land, water and marine ecosystems focuses on ecological structure and function in linked terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems, and their relationship to functional biodiversity and to ecosystem services. The emphasis is on ecosystems that are occupied and used by people to support their needs, rather than primarily on ecosystem in a pristine state. The theme is explicitly spatial and temporal, since it is centrally concerned with the linkages between different ecosystem facets: Land and atmosphere, land and freshwater, freshwater and coastal, ocean and atmosphere.

Energy futures
Potentially, the sub-Saharan African region has substantial and environmentally benign renewable energy resources distributed throughout. Existing estimates of energy use in Africa indicate a significant and persistent dependence on traditional biomass energy technologies and limited use of modern renewable energy technologies. The consumption of biomass, in its traditional and unprocessed form, entails significant energy losses and inefficient end use. The situation presents a clear dilemma: Access to readily available and affordable energy services is a necessary but insufficient condition for socio-economic development and the generation, transformation and transportation of (biomass and fossil fuel based) energy services cause significant and long-term impacts on the earth’s climate (with associated environmental and socio-economic effects and impacts).

The challenge is thus to increase access to affordable energy services to enable productive economic activities and improvement in quality of life while decreasing the harmful implications of the services, which may negatively affect the access to future energy services. 

Environmental assessment and management
The aim of the environmental assessment and management (EA&M) theme is to develop and improve the efficiency and functionality of environmental assessment and management tools, so as to ensure better understanding of potential Impacts associated with proposed developments and to facilitate a reduced duration and improved quality of the environmental decision making processes. It is envisaged that such improvement will significantly contribute towards achieving sustainable economic growth rates and environmentally sound decision making which are critical challenges to the future sustainable development of South Africa.

The theme addresses broad research questions which focus on improving our ability to understand the consequence of change and develop good science for the management of development activities so as to ensure optimal benefit, as well as for avoiding harmful consequences.

Forestry resources
The aim is to improve the knowledge of plantation landscapes, resources and processing chains in South Africa and Africa to benefit small, medium and large growers, to contribute to greater processor efficiency, to the economic growth and global competitiveness of the FTPP sector and to the sustainability and social benefits of the sector (individuals and collective), while seeking to minimise any negative environmental effects. Research endeavours in this domain also contribute to sustainable plantation management by strengthening research alliances and partnerships with local higher education institutes (HEIs) and research institutes, as well as with international researchers and research institutes. The development of competent researchers and in-depth research capability in this domain within the CSIR and in the country - through mentorship by local and international researchers - is an important imperative.

Pollution and waste
With a focus on pollution and waste, this research theme aims to address the core problem that increased anthropogenic pollution, and waste generation and disposal in changing environments will pose increasing risks to the environment resulting in it becoming increasingly compromised.

Therefore, the aim is to develop an understanding of the risks associated with increased waste generation and disposal, and pollution and pathogenic organisms on the environment, together with the cost and benefit of mitigation. The group deals with pollution generation, dispersion, impact, treatment and remediation.

The CSIR has a particular strength in the treatment of wastewater from mines and the recovery of useful products from wastewater streams.

Mineral resources
The mining competency concentrates its research on the major tabular ore deposits of South Africa, i.e. gold, platinum and coal, but will also seek opportunities in chrome because it is mined in the same way as platinum; and in diamonds because of the high level of technology already being applied in that industry. The five axes of research important to South Africa within the CSIR context are a) improved excavation support; b) improved or optimised layouts; c) better drill and blast technology; d) mechanical rock breaking; and e) orebody information.

Sustainability science
Sustainability science is emerging internationally as an approach to understand and inform the management of complex social-ecological systems. The ultimate goal of this research theme is that by 2011 the CSIR’s internationally recognised capability in sustainability science will help key role players to understand and enhance the resilience of southern Africa’s social-ecological systems.

Areas where the CSIR has comparative advantage in terms of sustainability science research include the science underpinning water resource management and related policy, biodiversity and conservation planning, urban settlement planning and environmental assessment and management.

Alternate water futures
This research theme seeks to develop a reliable predictive understanding of the outcomes in terms of human well-being, aquatic ecosystem integrity, and security of water supply, to different sectoral patterns, locations, levels, temporal scales and systems of water use in South and Southern Africa.

The current strengths in this field span the spectrum from policy development to the development of implementation plans relating to water ecosystem assessment and management, water and human health, wastewater treatment and groundwater assessment and management. An additional and rapidly growing integrative strength is in the area of water resource governance systems, where biophysical knowledge is enriched with social, political and economic expertise to lead thinking on national and transboundary water resource management.
Maximising the benefits of space technology

The CSIR Satellite Applications Centre is a key component of the CSIR's efforts to maximise the benefit of information, communications and space technology for industry and society. The centre at Hartebeesthoek is located some 70 km west of Pretoria in the Magaliesberg mountain range and is ideally positioned to provide tracking, telemetry and command (TT&C) services for geo-synchronous and polar orbiting spacecraft to the manufacturers, operators and users of satellites and launch vehicles. It is also ideally situated for satellite data acquisition and as such, delivers earth observation data relayed from satellites to a range of stakeholders.

Role in local and regional space programmes

The CSIR is well placed to play an important role in South Africa's future space agency, whilst maintaining its quality service delivery to the international space sector and in the growing earth observation data management arena. Cabinet approved the establishment of the country's first space agency - tasked with coordinating the use of space technology and local space science research - in 2006.

Distribution of imagery

The CSIR complies with the Spatial Data Information Act and the distribution of imagery under a multi-user license for government, which will ensure more cost-effective data for government and the empowerment of various national imperatives.

Department of Science and Technology space initiatives

The CSIR works in support of space initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). It will, for example, be the main operations facility for the South African-commissioned and built earth observation satellite, SumbandilaSat.

Satellite navigation

After many years of negotiation and preparation, construction has started on the Galileo sensor site (GSS) to be hosted at the CSIR Satellite Applications Centre. The GSS site will form part of a worldwide network of reference site receiving signals from the European Galileo satellites to provide services similar to the existing GPS system. The CSIR is excited to be part of this programme as it will enable higher quality geo-location services in southern Africa. The applications will be wide-ranging from everyday car routing already familiar to the general public to asset tracking, shipping and aviation.
Ensuring environmental sustainability at Hartebeesthoek
The CSIR Satellite Applications Centre has a proud record of ensuring that its operations are executed in a manner that ensures environmental sustainability and remains in harmony with its surroundings.
It is situated in a world heritage site, notably the Cradle of Mankind. Located in a remote, pristine area, it is a matter of management priority to maintain the wellbeing of its environment.
Site infrastructure is maintained by an on-site team. With this infrastructure spread over 42 hectares of bushveld, the centre has endeavoured to give back to nature by the establishment of a relocated herd of blesbok. The antelope number about 14, including yearly increases through breeding.
During the most recent large antenna establishment project, a wetland was created to contribute to the park-like character of the site. This natural feature draws both antelope and other small mammals, as well as birds.
Wastewater generated on site is organically purified and reused for irrigation purposes to ensure that this precious resource is not squandered.
Through enhanced technology, the centre is now using less electricity that in the past (a savings of 10% over the past five years).


To provide technology leadership in supporting sustainable Growth, Equity and Employment.


To enhance industrial development and competitiveness through technology support measures to improve the lives of all South Africans.

•  Enhance Technology Leadership;
•  Develop Technology Policy and Strategy;
•  Contribute to building technology platforms;
•  Support innovation in industry;
•  Facilitate technology transfer and diffusion;
•  Support technology-based SMME’s;
•  Promote BEE and gender equity;
•  Address the technology needs of the 2nd economy;
•  Support the development of skills for science, engineering and technology.

•  Technology And Human Resources For Industry Programme (THRIP);
•  Support Programme For Industrial Innovation (SPII);
•  National Technology Transfer Centre (NTTC);
•  Godisa;
•  Mpumalanga Stainless Initiative (MSI);
•  The Down Stream Aluminium Centre For Technology (DACT);
•  Furntech;
•  National Fibre, Textile And Clothing Centre (NFTCC);
•  Venture Capital;
•  Technology Linkages.