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CSIR marks 75 years of groundbreaking research, development and innovation

The CSIR, turning 75 this year, has an international convention centre that has hosted countless major events over the years. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)

The CSIR, turning 75 this year, has an international convention centre that has hosted countless major events over the years. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 7, 2020


Pretoria - There is no corner of life that the CSIR has not touched or influenced in its 75 years of existence.

However, those that deserve special mention include assisting with the smart ID cards, introducing the biometrics card verification method in partnership with banks and helping combat rhino poaching with improved surveillance.

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Some of the most impactful CSIR innovations and inventions throughout the decades include the first radar in South Africa in 1945, microwave electronic distance measurement equipment, the tellurometer (1954), as well as the contribution to the invention of the lithium-ion battery in the 1980s.

The leading research, development and innovation organisation has reached a major milestone, and yesterday celebrated 75 years.

Established in 1945, the CSIR has relentlessly improved lives of citizens through groundbreaking research, development and innovation.

The organisation’s mandate remained the intrinsic guiding force over the years, with the focus having been refined to respond to the global and local context.

The refined focus resulted in, for example, the spin-out of a number of institutions and the establishment of science councils, such as the South African Bureau of Standards, National Research Foundation, National Meteorology Institute of South Africa, and the Human Sciences Research Council.

The chairperson of the CSIR board, Professor Thokozani Majozi, said the organisation had a rich heritage and strong reputation for excellence and innovation.

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“The CSIR is an exceptional organisation and our unique multi-disciplinary capability and the focus on making an impact in improving the quality of lives of South Africans is our steadfast pursuit.

“This outstanding feat bears testimony to the relevance of the CSIR and the role that it has played in our ecosystem of innovation since 1945. It has played an important role in shaping the country’s science, engineering and technology space,” said Majozi.

Testament to that is the sound track record and reputation that the organisation has built based on leading research and technological development.

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Today, lithium-ion batteries power smartphones, laptop computers, electric vehicles, smart grids and even homes owe their innovation and existence to the CSIR.

True to its multidisciplinary nature, its impact has been experienced in diverse fields.

“In 1999, CSIR researchers developed a forecasting model to predict the outcome of the national elections, based on early voting results,” the board chairperson said.

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The model has since been successfully used to predict the results for all the national and local government elections.

In 2010 they unveiled the state-of-the-art containment Level 3 laboratory for experiments involving HIV and TB pathogens.

This enables researchers to conduct research and proof-of-concept studies for new HIV/Aids and TB diagnostics or therapeutics.

The CSIR 75-year anniversary comes as the world faces the biggest pandemic in a century - Covid-19 - and, said Majozi, the fact that the CSIR managed to step up to the plate to support the country in its efforts to curb the spread of the virus demonstrated its uniqueness and relevance.

“We collaborated with a number of local partners to produce local ventilators that have been rolled out nationwide to patients showing respiratory distress in the early phase of Covid-19 infection. To date, 7000 ventilators have been completed and delivered to hospitals and clinics,” Majozi said.

Over 18000 Covid-19 tests have been conducted at an upgraded CSIR Biosafety Level 3 laboratory in a bid to boost the country’s testing capacity, in partnership with the National Health Laboratory Service.

Work is under way to manufacture Covid-19 sample purification kits in large quantities, creating a steady local supply that will speed up testing and reduce the country’s reliance on international suppliers.

Pretoria News

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