Delegates at the NanoAfrica Conference in Salt Rock.

UKZN Contributes to Successful NanoAfrica Conference

UKZN played an important role in the 7th NanoAfrica Conference which attracted 180 delegates from Institutions of Higher Education, government, research councils, industry, the medical sector, and various science and technology organisations.

Representatives of organisations and institutions in Africa and other parts of the world also attended.

The conference created a forum for South Africans involved in the field of nanotechnology and nanoscience, including technologists, entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and researchers, to interact on the latest developments and future trends in the multidisciplinary field.

UKZN’s Professor Vincent Nyamori, Chairperson of the local organising committee, thanked delegates for attending. ‘We appreciate your contribution towards the success of our conference,’ said Nyamori. ‘As the hosting institution, and under the auspices of the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform, we are honoured to have your support.’

Proceedings included oral and poster presentations on a wide array of topics in nanotechnology and nanoscience. Nyamori said the standard of reporting was exceptional, and praised participants for their enthusiasm.

Topics included synthesis of advanced nanomaterials, their characterisation and novel properties, and cutting-edge applications of nanomaterials, bio-nanomaterials and composites in fields such as energy, water, health and the environment. This aligned with objectives of the National Nanotechnology Strategy, the Innovation Plan of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and the National System of Innovation (NSI), while also highlighting the development of human capital.

At the welcoming ceremony, Professor A Khumalo of the South African Nanotechnology Initiative (SANI) emphasised the role of the SANI in the conceptualisation of nanotechnology in South Africa.

Khumalo acknowledged the efforts that led to the establishment of the conference 14 years ago and congratulated organisers of this year’s prestigious event, which was supported by SANI, UKZN InQubate, UKZN, the DST, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Water Research Commission (WRC), among others.

‘The area of nanotechnology is one in which the University is heavily invested,’ said UKZN Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Albert van Jaarsveld. ‘Such conferences focus our attention on what we as a country should do to take nanotechnology forward, not only in terms of the services we offer to society but also in ensuring that we operate at the cutting-edge of science and technology.’

Organisations, including the WRC, said the event helped them to identify gaps they could help fill in relevant research. A participant from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research noted the value of the multidisciplinary nature of nanotechnology to contribute to things like materials development in South Africa.

A one-day technical workshop hosted by UKZN InQubate on the commercialisation of nanotechnology in Africa was well received, with delegates commenting that they were inspired by the experiences shared by various start-up companies who presented.

At the workshop, Dr Matthew Davies of Swansea University shared his experience of commercialising photovoltaic cells and his ongoing collaborative research with UKZN on developing renewable energy solutions for Africa.

Other speakers included representatives from the DTI, patent specialists from Adams & Adams and UKZN researchers working in the Nanotechnology Platform. The workshop also featured a panel discussion.

Said Mrs Suvina Singh, Director of UKZN InQubate: ‘The aim is to encourage researchers to not look at their research only from a scientific perspective but also from an industry needs perspective, and break down silos to get researchers to talk with industries to ensure the commercialisation of their research and inventions.’

Words: Christine Cuénod 

Photograph supplied by: Vincent Nyamori