The impact of 23 projects, facilitated by the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy (AMTS) Implementation Unit and valued at R87,7-million over three years to drive competitiveness in South Africa's manufacturing industry, is currently being showcased to more than 200 delegates at the Midrand Convention Centre as part of the AMTS 2009 Project Symposium.
The AMTS focuses on developing technologies and scarce skills to strengthen South Africa's technology-based industries, particularly the manufacturing sector. This is the country's second largest sector, responsible for 14% of the Gross Domestic Product. Established by the Department of Science and Technology in 2003, the AMTS is managed by the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research).
"Our purpose with the symposium this year, after the success of the first event in 2008, is to highlight the impact of AMTS projects for the 2006-2009 period as well as provide stakeholders with updates on our technical and human capital development projects during the past year," says Berenice Lue Marais, CSIR Group Manager for Contract Research and Development.
In his keynote address at the symposium, science and technology deputy minister Derek Hanekom referred to the impact of the global recession on manufacturing locally, and confirmed the value of the AMTS projects in utilising opportunities for technology-led economic improvement during the recent economic slowdown.
Since inception, the AMTS Implementation Unit has focused on creating smart partnerships to develop technologies with strategic value for the country. Projects are located in all nine provinces in South Africa. Currently, 22 large, medium and small private sector organisations and 39 state agencies, universities and universities of technology are participating in these projects.
Significant achievements during the past year include a number of successful human capacity development interventions, such as placing more than 600 students, mostly African and more than a third female, at over 200 companies nationally to help optimise industrial processes. In addition, more than 280 students, from interns to post-graduates, benefited from participation in R&D programmes in advanced production, light-weight materials and electronics.
AMTS project members also published over 20 refereed papers and are currently developing a database to link engineering students with industry. Collaboration and capacity development are ongoing to establish smart partnerships, such as with Aerosud and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, where the focus is on aviation and mechatronics respectively.
"Our focus remains on stimulating technological development, increasing the manufacturing capability of smaller enterprises and establishing common ground for them to compete at an international level to stimulate the local economy," says Lue Marais, adding that the future implementation of the AMTS is likely to expand through new technology areas within the Technology Innovation Agency.
"This will make an ever increasing impact on individuals and South Africa's manufacturing industry," she says.