DST commits over R6 million for the research programme at STIAS

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, has approved that the Department of Science and Technology (DST) support the research programme at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) with a grant of R6 526 million over three years.

Established in 2000 by Stellenbosch University and now managed as a section 21 company, STIAS is the only multidisciplinary Institute for Advanced Study in Africa. The Institute is also concerned with nurturing and retaining the intellectual leadership of Africa. It attracts leading international scholars and researchers to Africa. The 2002 Nobel laureate for medicine, Prof. Sydney Brenner, has been a visiting fellow at STIAS since 2005, and leading international sociologist Prof. Manuel Castells since 2009, and again in August 2011. Other international figures who have taken up resident fellowships at STIAS include Profs Mamadou Diawara, Lynn Margulis, Kip Thorne, Leonard Susskind, Nancy Fraser and Immanuel Wallerstein.

The funds from the Department will be administered by the National Research Foundation, whose mandate includes supporting and promoting research at universities through funding.

The allocation will be made over three years, starting in 2011.

The funding announcement follows the Minister’s February 2010 visit to STIAS, during which she expressed her appreciation of its research programme, which places particular emphasis on multidisciplinary projects. She emphasised the importance of maintaining the independence of the “creative space for the mind” provided by STIAS.

The DST believes it is important to expand the reach of STIAS opportunities to include more leading researchers, especially those from the rest of Africa and the Diaspora. Such fellows could be recruited as leading researchers in the National System of Innovation, which would assist Africa to retain its intellectual capital.

Support for STIAS would complement some of the Department’s other initiatives, such as the Africa Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), the National Institute for Theoretical Physics (NITheP), the African Laser Centre, the Southern African Network for Biosciences and the newly launched African Doctoral Academy.

Prof Hendrik Geyer, STIAS Director, welcomed this vote of confidence in the STIAS programme by the DST, indicating that together with the grant of R30 million over 5 years recently announced by the Swedish Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, STIAS has been able to increase its planning horizon significantly. “The combined grants now cover about two-thirds of the required STIAS programme funding and will certainly play an important role in our ability to leverage further support for the programme.”

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