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Strategic initiatives

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Research at UCT takes place within a number of formal research structures or groupings, including faculties and departments, university research institutes, accredited research groups and national instruments such as Centres of Excellence and the DST/NRF South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI).

Interdisciplinary research strengths

Increasingly, research at UCT is also drawn together into areas of research strengths (featured below): interdisciplinary hubs that are selected for particular support because they meet a number of strategic objectives and encompass a critical mass of researchers. They also provide an opportunity to leverage our geographic advantage, and show potential for strong collaboration nationally, across the continent and globally.

Astronomy, cosmology and gravity

 

Climate and development


Astronomy

 


Climate and development

UCT's Astrophysics, Cosmology and Gravity Centre (ACGC) is where astronomy and mathematics fuse to produce a string of astounding discoveries and to grapple with the most challenging questions about the universe. In partnership with numerous international research institutions, the ACGC is becoming Africa's astronomy hub, attracting talented postgraduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty from around the world.

 

The African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) conducts interdisciplinary innovative research across a wide range of disciplines to inform its teachings. This initiative brings together academics with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), business and government in a knowledge factory that co-produces and tests new insights, evidence and innovations that will help solve Africa's climate and development challenges.

Conservation and conflict

 

Data-intensive research


Conflicts in conservation

 


Understanding the drivers of local, national and global conservation conflict, including conflict among people about how to balance wildlife, requires an interdisciplinary approach. Biology and sociology represent core research domains for wildlife and society respectively. Conservation also requires a deeper engagement with the specific historical and socio-economic context and the philosophical, legal and political frameworks within which conflicts arise.

 

UCT is rapidly becoming a hub for astronomical and astrophysics research in Africa. In order to address the shortage of skills required for dealing the data-intensive nature research, UCT (in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape) is taking the lead in creating the framework to introduce African researchers to research-intensive data and turn it into actionable knowledge. While astronomy and astrophysics are the main focus areas for developing and transferring these skills, other areas such as bio-informatics and statistical sciences will be included.

Democracy, public policy and citizenship in Africa

 

Drug discovery


 


Drug discovery

The Institute for Democracy, Citizenship and Public Policy in Africa conducts comparative empirical studies of contemporary African democracy. Previous research has demonstrated that democracy is sustained through effective and predictable political institutions, and an active and critical citizenry, with both being underpinned by public policies that enable inclusive growth and rising welfare. The institute investigates each of these three areas with democracy being the guiding theme that binds them together.

 

The Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3-D) at UCT was established to close the gap that exists between the institution's research and the development of new medicines. By adopting a multidisciplinary approach and the use of modern technology platforms, the H3-D has become the leading drug-discovery organisation on the African continent. The centre is also committed to training a new generation of African scientists with the key skills needed for integrated drug discovery and development.

Future water

 

High-energy physics


 


High-energy physics

In the context of rapid urbanisation and climate change, water security and consumption are extremely important issues to address. UCT gives focused attention to these areas through its wastewater treatment research in order to develop innovative solutions to enhance and improve wastewater treatment. Studies conducted at UCT also seek solutions to ensure that the quality and access to water is maintained.

 

To gain new knowledge, physicists have been colliding atomic particles at ever higher energies. At present the highest beam energies are available at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland. The Department of Physics at UCT has been participating in the work of the LHC by contributing to two of its large detectors. This is now an important component of the Department of Physics and contributes strongly to its visibility on the international scene.

Infectious diseases and molecular medicine

 

Marine research


Infectious diseases and molecular medicine

 


Marine research

At a time when increasing attention is focused on many emerging infections and re-emerging infectious diseases, the work at the UCT Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine (IDM) is crucial. It has become a major hub for the development of independent researchers across Africa. Research in the IDM focuses on infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, genetic medicine and molecular medicine, including drug discovery.

 

The cold Benguela current and warmer Agulhas current, together with the southern ocean, are central to African climate variability in the region and its diverse biology. South Africa's position between the currents, with ready access to three major world oceans, makes it an optimal site for marine research. The UCT Marine Institute (Ma-Re) is advancing knowledge of this unique marine environment and its associated environmental issues.

Mineral beneficiation

 

Neurosciences


Mineral beneficiation

 


Neurosciences

South Africa's economic growth is greatly dependent on the efficiency and sustainability of its mining industry. Mining research at UCT explores ways to address these challenges and also investigates the role of policy and law in South African mining. Here, the focus has primarily been on the competing demands of nationalisation and private ownership of the country's natural resources and how it has had an impact on relations between government and national and international investors.

 

The majority of people who suffer from common mental and neurological disorders live in low- and middle-income countries. Yet, more than 95% of research publications in the area of psychiatry are from high-income countries. The Neurosciences Initiative has made great strides towards remedying this imbalance, focusing both on increased access to care and treatment and on transforming research and teaching in the neurosciences in Africa by drawing together an array of expertise.

Poverty and inequality

 

Preserving our African heritage


Poverty and inequality

 


Preserving our African heritage

South Africa is a country with enormous untapped potential but it also has a history of oppression and unevenly shared development. Twenty years into the post-apartheid period, high levels of poverty and inequality persist. Through its Poverty and Inequality Initiative (PII), UCT aims to provide solutions for tackling these challenges. This initiative has become a national venture and works on cross-cutting themes that have been identified as key issues in tackling the twin challenges of poverty and inequality.

 

Globalisation presents many challenges involved in preserving Africa's identity - it is the topic of ongoing debate. One thing, however, remains clear: during this time of rapid development, it is essential that Africans are empowered to shape their own identity. Since narrative shapes identity, UCT supports a variety of projects that give a voice to the different histories of South Africa and the continent. In this way, UCT aims to contribute to a process of respect, growth and healing.

Safety governance in the global south

 

Safety and violence

Safety governance in the south

 

Safety and violence

The intersection between global illicit flows and violence at the local level remain under-studied, particularly in the Global South. The institute, a partnership between the Centre for Criminology, the Safety and Violence Initiative, and the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice, in collaboration with the Geneva based Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, will develop a research and teaching programme on global illicit markets and flows, local violence risk factors and safety governance.

 

South Africans continue to face persistent high rates of violence.There is a core group of researchers at UCT from a variety of disciplines who have been working within the diverse but related fields of policing, causes of rape, prevention of child maltreatment and the like. Together they have formed the Safety and Violence Initiative (SAVI) with a mandate to focus on understanding and intervening in the promotion of safety and the reduction of violence in South Africa.

Schools improvement

 

Urban Africa


Schools improvement

 


Urban Africa

The Schools Improvement Initiative (SII) is a direct response to the education crisis in South Africa. The underachievement of learners, in particular in township schools around Cape Town, has resulted in relatively small numbers of black students from these disadvantaged areas qualifying for entrance to UCT. SII was formed to harness the university's broader resources to foster meaningful partnerships with education-related groupings, both within and outside of UCT.

 

Rapid urbanisation raises issues of adequate food supply, affordable shelter, employment opportunities, water and waste management, environmental degradation and climate change. Achieving well-governed and sustainable cities is becoming increasingly important to the future health of the planet. The African Centre for Cities at UCT is an interdisciplinary research and teaching programme that seeks to facilitate critical urban research and policy discourses for the promotion of vibrant, democratic and sustainable urban development in the global south from an African perspective.

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