|Institutionalising Research Uptake at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology|
|Friday, 22 August 2014 16:21|
At the recent SARIMA Conference in Gaberone, Botswana Prof Shaun Pather, Head of Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the DVC: Research, Technology Innovation and Partnerships at CPUT provided some insight into progress made in terms of deepening and further institutionalising Research Uptake at the University.
In a previous article Prof Pather outlined CPUT's ten year Research and Technology-Innovation (RTI) strategy, which incorporates Research Uptake as one of five strategic pillars and was launched in 2013. He noted that CPUT has taken a strategic approach which means that Research Uptake is seen as a key aspect of CPUT’s long term vision, requiring a holistic rather than fragmented approach.
CPUT’s Research Uptake Strategy includes a number of elements. It has strong executive support and sees partnerships, both local and international as an important way of promoting uptake as well as building the CPUT’s internationalisation strategy. There is also a focus on building strong administrative processes related to research uptake, as well as having the internal capacity to manage and coordinate research uptake activities. CPUT has already appointed a full time Research Capacity Development Manager as part of this process. CPUT also aims to provide enhanced support for knowledge transfer, including a business incubation infrastructure and a business development manager. Finally indicators are important for measuring successful knowledge impact and research uptake.
Changing Culture Through Action
CPUT looks at Research Uptake not only at a strategic level but also at a project level. Researchers are increasingly being required by funders to provide information about plans for impact, and the CPUT research funding framework reflects that and considers budget items related to research uptake activities.
Such an approach requires a paradigm shift in culture, attitudes, and practice on the part of researchers and the university administration. Researchers are traditionally rewarded for their formal publications in academic journals. However, to promote research uptake, researchers need to take a more holistic approach by focusing on the whole research cycle, rather than a single output at the end. Each project should have a knowledge and adoption plan, which should ensure budgeting for the legacy stage. Managing the research legacy well will provide important opportunities for research uptake.
A good Communication Strategy is an important part of ensuring uptake
In order to improve uptake CPUT is building a balanced communication strategy, with both internal and external communities. The website and monthly newsletters are a key part of this as well as overall branding for the university. In addition the university will be focus on more targeted audiences and science communication.
Building on past success
CPUT has already had a number of successes with regards to research uptake, and the variety of uptake strategies reminds us that research uptake is iterative, and although the importance of senior management buy-in cannot be overstated, each project needs to build its uptake plan based very much on its own environment and target audience.
Working with the media
Prof Jeanine Mamewick from the Oxidative Stress Research Centre at the Institute of Biomedical and Microbial Biotechnology used the media to disseminate her research findings. Her research explored the effects of rooibos on stress and biochemical parameters in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease. She found that rooibos had positive effects health effects. Like most researchers, she feels that if her research is publically funded then the research findings should be available to the public. She therefore actively engaged with the media and interest groups. Her advice is always to be available to journalists who are asking questions and to spend time working out how to translate science for a non-scientific audience.
In November 2013 CPUT made history with the launch of South Africa’s first nanosatellite. ZACUBE-1 was designed and built by postgraduate students following the CubeSat Programme at the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). The CubeSat was launched from Yasny Launch Base in Russia and placed in orbit at an altitude of 600km. As noted above these collaborations are an important part of ensuring research is translated into tech transfer. Building and maintaining international and local partnerships clearly improves the prospect of uptake.
Working with end-users
Nicky Abdinor is the Founder and Chairperson of Nicky’s Drive, a registered non-profit organisation (086-364-NPO) in South Africa. Nicky is a Clinical Psychologist in Cape Town and drives a specially adapted vehicle (she drives using only her shoulder and right leg!) that was donated to her. The mobility and independence that driving has given Nicky, motivated her to set up the organisation to help fund car adaptations for people with disabilities within South Africa and she is collaborating with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) to bring joystick steering technology to South Africa. This pioneering project is headed by Professors Mugendi M’Rithaa and Oscar Philander, who have been working closely with CPUT’s Disability Unit. CPUT students have been working with Nicky to develop the sophisticated technology she uses to drive. Her physical limitations only allow her to drive using a joystick hydraulic steering system with her right shoulder. The car was unveiled earlier in 2014. This example shows how working with end-users can ensure uptake.
Prof Shaun Pather is the Head of Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the DVC: Research, Technology Innovation and Partnerships at Cape Peninsula University of Technology
*This blog is an adaptation of the original presentation by Prof Pather, and was informed by the background notes that accompanied this presentation.