Institutions of higher learning at cutting edge of technology

20 July 2021 | Onderwys
Desiree Gases





Right now, in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that continues to wreak havoc in our communities, institutions of higher learning must be at the forefront of responding to the needs of the people. The HTTPS is a state-of-the-art multi-million-dollar innovation hub that offers a conducive integrated ecosystem for sustainable technology transfer. The aim is to ensure that technological and scientific developments are available to a wider audience.

HTTPS is to optimally utilise this facility as a cost-effective, functional technology inspired ecosystem, where academia and industry meet to improve competitiveness through transdisciplinary research, co-creation, co-development, application and transfer of specialised knowledge and technology, aligned with signature programmes. This anchors the university as a vital centre of competence to assist in tackling social challenges and drive economic growth.

This is certainly a milestone achievement, not only for the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) community, but also for the entire education sector and the business community at large.

The HTTPS speaks directly to the fostering of innovation through the transfer of technology and knowledge between higher education institutions, businesses and various development partners.

It is well positioned to foster an immersive engagement in physical and virtual spaces for open accelerated innovation. Technology transfer usually happens at a smaller sporadic scale within isolated technology transfer or research and innovation offices in universities or the industry.

“What is distinctively different about the HTTPS is the size, the intensity and scale at which technology transfer will happen. Therefore, HTTPS is not an office nor a building, but an ecosystem that brings various technology actors together - irrespective of size or the type of sector,” NUST vice-chancellor Dr Erold Naomab said. The centre will house some incubator initiatives that until now have been scattered across Namibia. Through virtual and physical collaboration platforms, the plaza becomes a consolidated point of contact for some of Namibia’s sharpest and brightest minds to cross-pollinate ideas with local and visiting scholars, researchers, industry experts and ICT stakeholders.

The projects to be undertaken within the HTTPS will be based on cutting-edge digital technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Cyber Security, X Reality, Big Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Autonomous Robotics, and Edge Computing.

The funding programme has received commendation from the Vice President of Namibia, Dr Nangolo Mbumba. In his address during the inauguration of the HTTPS, he pointed out the positive impact this commitment will bring into Namibia’s human capital skills base for its capability of creating potential top talent and competent workforce for the future.

Universities and industries have been collaborating for decades, and the rise of a global knowledge economy has intensified the need for strategic partnerships beyond the traditional funding of discrete research projects.

Additionally, the plaza will aid in implementing procedures and various instruments for delivering quality postgraduate programmes and facilitating student research through mentorship and funding.

The university secured a N$51 million partnership with MTC, Namibia’s largest mobile telecommunications company, and the Southern African Science Service Centre for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) has provided N$40 million worth of funding to establish the SASSCAL Graduate Studies Programme in Integrated Water Resource Management (SGSP - IWRM) implemented at NUST.

The SGSP - IWRM will constitute an innovative and excellent regional collaborative education and research programme at PhD degree level complemented by selected tailor-made short courses that are aimed at capacitating decision-makers and the industry. Similar partnerships are established with the German Development Agency, GIZ and the Walvis Bay Corridor Group.

SASSCAL executive director Dr Jane Olwoch hailed the bold move and in particular the strategic partnership that NUST exco and management has provided towards the establishment of the SGSP-IWRM. She said “this programme has come at a time when the state of water resources in terms of availability and quality are of a critical concern for so many SADC member states”.

She also stressed that climate change, resultant droughts together with domestic, agricultural and industrial demands have worsened the vulnerability of the water sector in the region.

The three-year PhD programme is planned to officially kick off in September with 15 students to be enrolled at NUST until August 2024. The HTTPS will enable the university to increase its offerings at the postgraduate level. Developing new skills for Namibia’s next generation workforce and a channel for future recruitment of top talents offer resilience and connectivity as part of this initiative.

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