On Tuesday, 28 June 2016, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was signed by Prof Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Pretoria (UP); Mr Nazir Alli, Chief Executive Officer of the South African National Roads Agency SOC Limited (SANRAL); and Dr Rachel Chikwamba, Executive Director of the CSIR. The MOA supports a collaborative effort to establish an Integrated Education, National Certification, National Reference and Research Laboratories Facility. The effort involves SANRAL, the Department of Civil Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT), and the CSIR's Built Environment research area.
It is envisaged that the integrated facility will provide (i) an internationally renowned platform for academic and vocational training support in transportation infrastructure materials testing; (ii) a national transportation material reference testing platform and (iii) high-quality research facilities staffed by skilled personnel. This partnership will strive to create an environment where a stable stream of research funding can be invested optimally, and will focus on the alignment of bursary and studentship programmes at the CSIR, UP and SANRAL to ensure the required throughput from which the research capability can be rebuilt.
Owing to the current dearth of civil engineers and other transportation engineering-related skills in South Africa, it is vital to ensure that critical mass in these areas is developed and maintained. The three parties will not only strive to find innovative ways to solve these challenges, but also to enhance the quality and quantity of the outputs and avoid costly duplication of laboratory facilities.
This visionary agreement to unite forces will benefit South Africa and the day-to-day life of its citizens through improvements in design, construction, maintenance and the management of transportation infrastructure.
The facility will add momentum and academic opportunities in the training and education of civil engineers at UP, with a focus on improving transportation infrastructure in South Africa and the surrounding region.