File Image: Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. (ANA)
The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) is calling for applications for its Thrip programme aimed at advancing industrialisation, with the deadline set for the end of January.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said since its inception over two decades ago, Thrip (Technology and Human Research for Industry Programme) has supported research from all industry sectors.

“Most of the investment in terms of value went into the manufacturing sector, followed by agriculture and agro-processing. Many good outputs including patents, products and prototypes produced have not been exploited through this research,” he said.

Donald Mabusela, a director at the department, said Thrip would be awarded to individuals doing applied research and development in science, engineering and technology sectors, in an effort to advance the fourth industrial revolution.

“Thrip is a cost-sharing grant of up to R8 million per annum for a period of three years for an approved project engaged in applied research and development in science, engineering and/or technology whose outputs could make a significant contribution towards improving the industry partner's competitive edge,” said Mabusela.

Prioritised

Qualifying SMMEs, co-operatives, researchers and students would be prioritised by the programme, with participating PhD students receiving an annual sum of R200 000, R150 000 for Master's students, and R80 000 for honours and BTech degree holders.

“Applications will be subjected to technical evaluation, present to adjudication committee for a decision, to ensure there is transparency and fairness.

"Programme managers are not the ones to decide who gets funding,” said Mabusela.

He was speaking at the dti’s Thrip agro-processing symposium, ending today in Sandton, Johannesburg. It’s held under the theme, “advancing agro-processing through digital technologies”.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research research engineer, Hein Swart, who made a presentation on agro-processing and the new digital revolution, said the world was on the verge of a new digital revolution.

He said this revolution was starting to “disrupt” a lot of industries, including agriculture and its value chains.

Production

Some of the possibilities that existed as a result of the revolution, which has become a global phenomenon, included the 3D printing of food, food production through nanotechnology, and smart packaging, sensors and delivery systems.

“We are on the verge of a new digital revolution. We’ve got autonomous cars driving around, got robots, got drones delivering products to people, we have cloud technology and big data. The future is actually now. Technology is developing at a very rapid rate,” said Swart.

Sipho Zikode, a deputy director-general at the dti, said South Africa “must be on top of technological progress and development. We need to focus on research institutions and support them.”

The symposium, ending today, was aimed at creating a platform where government-funded research was showcased to relevant industry for “possible exploitation and industrialisation”.

It was also focused on engaging stakeholders on critical issues affecting agriculture and the agro-processing value chain.

-BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE