Centres of Excellence are awarded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through the National Research Fund (NRF). These physical or virtual centres of research are multi-institutional and allow researchers to collaborate across disciplines and institutions on long-term projects that are locally relevant and internationally competitive.
The Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology in the Department of Biological Sciences (affectionately known as the Fitztitute) was identified as a Centre of Excellence in 2004. Situated at the tip of Africa, the Fitztitute is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the vast untapped biological resources of the continent. Members of the department are committed to developing a greater understanding of these, through the training of scientists and the pursuit of primary research, from evolutionary ecology to conservation biology. The institute is also home to the Niven Library, which holds what is probably Africa's most comprehensive ornithology collection as well as reprints of the Institute's vast publication record.
Catalysis itself is about chemical transformation, the agents that cause it, the science underlying it, and the engineering of processes to practice it on industrial scale. c*change, however, is about more than science, engineering and technology development in catalysis. Although fundamentally about excellence, it is also about a new and different approach to academic scientific practice in South Africa, and about transformation of the body of South African researchers in terms of the age, gender and cultural profile.
The Centre of Excellence for Biomedical Tuberculosis Research (CBTBR) was established in 2004 and is committed to finding solutions to one of the continent's most threatening diseases. Its major objective is to contribute to local and global research efforts that are aimed at developing new tools for controlling tuberculosis and to use the research as a vehicle for training a new generation of high-quality biomedical research scientists. Research is aimed at the development of multidisciplinary approaches for understanding the epidemiology of the disease and identification of novel bacterial and host markers that will shorten the time taken to develop new diagnostic tools.
The South African government has embarked on an ambitious National Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Technologies flagship project, branded as Hydrogen South Africa (HySA). Its aim is to establish South Africa as one of the few nations that export high-value products into the growing international hydrogen and fuel cells markets. As custodian of some 80% of the world's platinum and rhodium reserves, South Africa's future role is no longer exclusively as the supplier of raw materials but as a manufacturer of value-added components. This is an important step in the transformation from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy.
HySA Catalysis, co-hosted by the University of Cape Town (at the Centre for Catalysis Research in the Department of Chemical Engineering) and Mintek, is one of 3 Centres of Competence tasked with the establishment of a technical and scientific base for distinctly South African contributions to global hydrogen and fuel cells technology knowledge. Its mandate includes the components in the early part of the value chain, catalysts and catalytic devices.