A mutual agreement of understanding has been signed between the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Unimore) and the University of Pretoria (UP) to collaborate in learning and research support within the car manufacturing and transport industries in South Africa.
According to Professor Sunil Maharaj, Dean of UP’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology, “The agreement will ensure that the institutions work together by developing programmes designed to promote and facilitate the international exchange of ideas and research.” Other Gauteng-based partner universities include the University of the Witwatersrand and Tshwane University of Technology.
This collaboration addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 (to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation); SDG 11 (to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and SDG 17 (to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development).
The programmes that will be encouraged include the establishment of joint research programmes, supervision of Master’s and Doctoral degrees, the exchange of students, the exchange of academic materials produced by the institutions and the organisation of conferences and symposia of mutual interest to the institutions.
Unimore is one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in 1175. It has taken advantage of its position in the heart of the ‘Motor Valley’ in northern Italy to build excellent collaboration with global leaders in supercar and related automotive engineering and manufacturing such as Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini. It also has a proven record of success in obtaining European Union (EU) funding for student and staff exchanges and for collaborative research with universities in other countries and with industry.
According to Prof Maharaj, “Unimore has several important partnerships and agreements that it brings to the table. One of them is its well-developed administrative support functions that they use to apply for European Union funding for research that requires collaboration by multiple universities and companies from multiple countries.”
Programmes of particular interest are the Erasmus Plus programmes for student and staff exchanges and the Horizon 2020 programmes for collaborative research. Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 2014 to 2020. It takes innovative ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace and stimulates economic growth and job creation.
Professor Sergio Ferrari of Unimore said he was excited about this agreement and that collaboration is a sign of progress. He added that he wanted to explore other opportunities with UP. The Ambassador of Italy, Paolo Cuculi, said he wanted to see greater collaboration in science, technology, engineering and mathematics between South Africa and Italy.
UP’s Professor Jasper Steyn, who represents the Gauteng Automotive Industry Development Centre, said the initiative was being supported by the governments of the two countries. He said the automotive manufacturing industry is important because it is the largest sector of the manufacturing industry in South Africa.
“It provides direct, indirect and induced employment to some 340 000 people in Gauteng and 740 000 in South Africa. The monetary value of global trade in automotive products comprises about one third that of all manufactured goods. Mobility engineering is growing massively in importance as pressures on society increase due to rapid urbanisation and due to environmental impact of mobility.”