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 the rest of the continent.
A primary focus of the unit is innovation in order to bridge the gap between fundamental research and commercial exploitation. Research activities focus on creating novel and highly competitive technologies and products which may be developed in South Africa through new start-up business 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 bio-processing and product development arena, thus allowing focused and effective research leadership of key focal areas which embrace national priorities. The unit sets out to strengthen these platforms and build the value chain so as to optimise impact in the external environment.
|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;|
|Better public buildings (including health facilities and schools);|
|Improved service delivery in the public sector.|
|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.|
Research efforts centre on developing and applying S&T capabilities in the areas of experimental and computational aeromechanics, as well as in aero
The combination of talented engineers, scientists and technicians boasting modern facilities - including wind tunnels, structural test facilities and computer clusters - has resulted in a hub of world-class aeronautical expertise.
Typical activities and competencies include:
In this research field, the primary focus is on studies, research, design, development, modelling, simulation, testing, measurement and evaluations in detonics, ballistics, protection and operator support systems.
The group prides itself on being neutral, independent advisors, acting 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, located at Paardefontein, outside Pretoria. It offers specialised services in the research and development 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:
In this field, research is focused on:
In addition, researchers evaluate and design counter-measure and electronic warfare techniques in the visual and infra-red wavelengths. Specific research groups include optronic survivability, optical surveillance systems, modelling and simulation, photonic technologies and test and evaluation and measurement science.
Research and development is undertaken to detect, track, measure, identify, protect and implement counter-measures for sensors operating in the microwave spectrum.
The key 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.
The CSIR has, during the past decade, dedicated S&T capabilities to:
In this domain, the CSIR sets out to be the knowledge-driven, science-based capacity which supports Government in identifying 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, together with offering a dedicated capability focused on discovering solutions to, and for the prevention of, cyber crime. Crime prevention research aims to integrate approaches across a range of disciplines incorporating criminology, systems and human sciences in the quest to develop preventative solutions to crime and violence.
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 predominantly complexity science approaches must be followed to identify sets of feasible solutions and where multiple causalities might not be the only drivers, systems modelling becomes an effective enabler to other research areas.
It also 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.
The focus of researchers in this domain is to develop and apply technology capable of meeting the unique requirements of South African special operations organisations.
Activities cover research, design, development, manufacturing, testing, simulation, operational support and professional services.
The group enjoys 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 designed 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 May 2005. As a national research, it is managed by the CSIR and is supported by both the Departments of Communication and of Science and Technology.
The institute strives to facilitate national economic and social development through human capital development, application innovation (realising societal benefits through more applied research and development) and advanced research in selected technology domains relevant to the local context, in co-operation 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 parties interested in exploring the possibility of partnering.
Meraka Institute initiatives and projects promote:
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, based at the CSIR National Laser Centre, enables South African industry to improve its global competitiveness and to expand market share. The CSIR National Laser Centre works closely with local higher education institutions and supports laser-related research at such institutions.
Laser is a light source which exhibits unique properties. Today, lasers dominate the modern world in a variety of forms, ranging from tiny diode lasers, found in CD and DVD players, to large industrial lasers, used for cutting and welding.
Current CSIR laser research aims to:
Utilising administrative and financial support from the National Research Foundation (NRF), the CSIR runs an access grant scheme which makes unique laser equipment and diagnostics available to South African researchers operating in laser-related fields. This initiative is called the Rental Pool Programme.
Numerous well-equipped in-house laboratories are utilised by CSIR researchers in order to conduct research in multi-disciplinary fields, inclusive of nanotechnology, spectroscopy and laser beams.
The facility enables a broad spectrum of researchers to have access to high-quality laser research equipment, information and technical support, throughout South Africa and others on the African continent.
The African Laser Centre was established for the development of much-needed laser research capacity, infrastructure, technology transfer and applications across Africa.
The CSIR's National Laser Centre operates a public awareness campaign, aptly named PULSE - Public Understanding of Laser Science and Engineering.
Through the PULSE programme, the CSIR is able to communicate its laser activities to the general public, whilst also creating broader community awareness of the economic and social benefits of science, engineering and technology.
Research and innovation in the field of materials science and manufacturing by the CSIR, its partners and stakeholders, focuses on improving 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. In this regard, a major competitive advantage is the wide coverage of materials and manufacturing disciplines within a single unit, which enables CSIR Materials Science and Manufacturing to conduct true multi-disciplinary research and solution development within these fields.
The organisation's expertise in this domain has been consolidated in five competence areas, each comprising a number of research groupings, together with 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 significant challenges with regard to sustainable development in South Africa, with a particular focus on the optimal utilisation of natural resources in support of economic growth and human well-being.
The research themes underpinning the CSIR's core research activities in this domain include:
The coupled land, water and marine ecosystems;
The energy futures;
The environmental assessment and management;
The forestry resources;
The mineral resources;
The pollution and waste;
The sustainability science; and
The 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 component of CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment's research strategy is the deliberate investment in science which is relevant and applied. As a consequence, research is guided by sustainability science, which seeks to learn about interactions amongst humans, their technologies and the eco-system services that sustain them and to apply this learning to address the urgent problems of economic development and environmental management.
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 eco-systems focuses on ecological structure and function in linked terrestrial, fresh-water and marine systems and their relationship to functional biodiversity and to eco-system services.
Great emphasis is placed on eco-systems which are occupied and used by people to support their needs, rather than - primarily - on eco-system in a pristine state. The theme is explicitly spatial and temporal, since it is centrally concerned with the linkages between different eco-system facets, being land and atmosphere, land and fresh-water, fresh-water and coastal and ocean and atmosphere.
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.
This 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, therefore, to increase access to affordable energy services, so enabling productive economic activities and an improvement in quality of life, while reducing the harmful implications of the services, which may negatively affect access to future energy services.
The aim of the environmental assessment and management theme is to develop and improve the efficiency and functionality of environmental
assessment and management tools. This ensures a better understanding of potential impacts associated with proposed developments and to
facilitate the 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, focusing on improving our ability to understand the consequence of change and to develop good science for the management of development activities, in order to ensure optimal benefit, as well as for avoiding harmful consequences.
The aim is to improve the knowledge of plantation landscapes, resources and processing chains in South Africa and Africa, so as to benefit small, medium and large growers to contribute to greater processor efficiency, to the economic growth and global competitiveness of the Forest, Trees and People Program (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, together with research institutes, as well as with international researchers and research institutes. The development of competent researchers and an in-depth research capability in this domain, within the CSIR and in the country through mentorship by local and international researchers, is an imperative.
With a concentration 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.
The aim, therefore, 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 enjoys a particular strength with regard to the treatment of waste-water from mines and the recovery of useful products from waste-water streams.
The mining competency concentrates its research on South Africa's major tabular ore deposits, being gold, platinum and coal, but also seeks 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 this industry.
The five axes of research important to South Africa, within the CSIR context, include:
Sustainability science is emerging internationally as an approach to understand and inform the management of complex social-ecological
The ultimate goal of this research theme is that 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 in which the CSIR has a comparative advantage, in terms of sustainability science research, include:
This research theme seeks to develop a reliable predictive understanding of outcomes in terms of human well-being, aquatic eco-system integrity and the security of water supply, to different sectoral patterns, locations, levels, temporal scales and systems of water use in South and Southern Africa.
Current strengths in this field span the spectrum, from policy development to the development of implementation plans relating to water eco-system assessment and management, water and human health, waste-water treatment and ground-water assessment and management.
An additional and rapidly growing integrative strength lies 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 trans-boundary water resource management.
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.
The CSIR is well-placed to play a key role in South Africa's future space agency, whilst maintaining its quality of service delivery to the international space sector and in the growing earth observation data management arena.
In 2006, Cabinet approved the establishment of the country's first space agency, tasked with co-ordinating the use of space technology and local space science research.
The CSIR complies with the Spatial Data Information Act and the distribution of imagery under a multi-user licence for Government, which ensures the more cost-effective data for Government and the empowerment of various national imperatives.
The CSIR works in support of the space initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology. It is the main operations facility for the South African-commissioned and built earth observation satellite, SumbandilaSat.
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 forms part of a world-wide network of reference sites receiving signals from the European Galileo satellites in order 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.
The CSIR Satellite Applications Centre enjoys a proud track-record of ensuring that its operations are executed in a manner which ensures environmental sustainability and remains in harmony with its surroundings.
It is located in a World Heritage Site, being the Cradle of Mankind. Positioned in a remote, pristine area, it is a matter of management priority to maintain the well-being of its environment.
Infrastructure is maintained by an on-site team and with such infrastructure spread over 42 hectares of bushveld, the centre has endeavoured to give back to nature through the establishment of a relocated herd of Blesbok. The antelope number about 14, including yearly increases through breeding.
During a 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 and birds.
Waste-water generated on-site is organically purified and re-used for irrigation purposes, so ensuring that this precious resource is not squandered. Through the utilisation of enhanced technology, the centre uses less electricity than in the past (a saving of 10% during the past five years).