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20 February 2019
Research Uptake in CPUT’s Research and Innovation Strategy Print
Wednesday, 10 June 2015 11:51

At research intensive universities there is always a tension between the traditional focus on producing research to enhance the university’s international standing and the new imperative to produce and promote research that contributes to national development. Can universities focus on each of these objectives without compromising the other?

In a presentation made at the 2015 SARIMA Conference entitled “Incentivizing relevance in research and innovation. A Research Uptake Strategy”, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Head of RIT Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, Prof Shaun Pather and the Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Chris Nhlapo, outlined the significance of institutionalising Research Uptake in the second phase of the university’s research and innovation growth process.

Although CPUT has not traditionally been a research-intensive university it is now on a research and development trajectory, with a vision of being at the heart of technology education and innovation and a mission of enhancing and developing the quality and effectiveness of research and knowledge production at the university.

“Increasingly universities are being asked to play a more active role in development”

Roles of Universities in the National System of Innovation

The South African government’s National Development Plan 2030 specifically notes “South Africa’s competitiveness will rely on national systems of innovation permeating the culture of business and society… Innovation and learning must become part of our culture” .

Increasingly universities are being asked to play a more active role in development.

This requires a change in the culture of the university. Fortunately, despite having being been previously instituionally organised around teaching, and not having a strong tradition of research, CPUT has been able to change its focus in order to become a role player in the NSI.

“To promote Research Uptake activities the university has taken a change management approach rather than providing ad hoc incentives”

Institutional change

CPUT defines Research Uptake as an activity that “encompasses the processes by which the knowledge which is generated through research is adapted, and transformed into outcomes which are applied within designated real-world contexts. Thus Uptake thus implies communication of research outcomes to user audiences. As well as innovation which is the process of transforming research outputs into a new or improved service, product, process, approach or policy which addresses an identified need in any sphere of society”.

As is the case in all South African universities CPUT’s academics have been driven to produce academic articles. The government provides incentives for publication in notable academic journals to publish. But to date, there is no similar government mechanism to recognize research and innovation that is taken up and utilised. CPUT is taking its own steps to adapt its academic environment to meet its development mission and vision.

To promote Research Uptake the university has taken a change management approach rather than providing ad hoc incentives. It has developed mechanisms which will facilitate  the institutionalisation of Research Uptake. Prof Pather’s presentation illustrates the practical steps that are underway.




Enabling institutional environment


  • RU embedded in an integrated RTI strategy - Buy-in at top management and amongst all stakeholders - Strategy influences policy changes and resource allocation.
  • Awareness:  RU marketing campaign to promote awareness and visibility of the importance, and value proposition of RU
  • Encourage multi-disciplinary teams to deal with whole problems – solutions which lead to uptake are rarely based on one discipline.
  • Prototype infrastructure to support multi-disciplinary RTI e.g. Design Park


Capacity development (learning)

  • Science Communication for both researchers and MCD staff
  • Awareness of the value of Research Uptake;
  •  Improving researchers’ and research visibility
  • Planning for the Whole Research Cycle
  • Research Stakeholder engagement planning, and management
  • Increasing visibility of Research Outputs
  • How to Write a policy brief


Dissemination of research findings (message)


  • Encourage wide-spread science communication e.g. Conversation Africa
  • Targeted communications to uptake stakeholders


Collaboration between researchers and users (communication)

  • Stakeholder engagement:  Identifyingstakeholders;
  • Training to develop skills for appropriate approaches when engaging with stakeholders;  Information generation/sharing, consultation, collaboration or partnership/choosing depth of partnerships.
  • Training in employing participatory methods in research (e.g. workshops, participatory action research, Living Lab concept, community mobilization etc)


Incentives and reinforcement (motivation through reward)


  • Add on a NEW category for research award at Annual Research Day viz. Top 3 Research uptake projects.
  • Adapt promotion policy to include criteria which award research uptake.
  • Adapt requirements  for  funding of projects


Research on research uptake and use


  • Development of indicator set to measure knowledge impact in a typical University of Technology environment

Influence (social influence)

  • Training in RU friendly research design approaches:  PAR, Living labs, co-design.
  • Embed RU at project inception


Institutionalising Research Uptake

With a clear set of objectives and mechanisms to achieve these objectives, CPUT has started to  develop a new understanding of the role of research for development and the importance of Research Uptake in this process.

Prof Shaun Pather Head of Research & Technology-Innovation Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships, CPUT