Opening address by the Minister of Science and Technology, Honourable Mosibudi Mangena, at the Launch of the Science Tunnel at Sci Bono Discovery Centre, Johannesburg
Ambassador Harro Adt
Representatives from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Representatives of SASOL and BMW South Africa
Exhibitors, educators and learners
Ladies and gentlemen
The Max Planck Science Tunnel is arguably the world's greatest travelling science exhibition of our time. South Africa is delighted and honoured to host this giant exhibition through which all of us can gain an insight into what scientists in the world, including South Africans, do to develop and advance the whole of humanity through science and technology.
As you have doubtless seen, this 1 000 square metres interactive exhibition is divided into 12 subject areas, each with an especially composed acoustic sound backdrop. It is here that you will experience how galaxies merge; black holes bring stars off course and gigantic sun storms rage, as well as learn about the latest satellite missions. And through scientific and technological manipulations, you will walk through the cells of the human body and the world of our senses.
Ladies and gentlemen, technological and scientific innovations have rightfully become the core of our hopes, precisely because they can act as accelerators for the much needed economic growth. This means, among other things, that the more we innovate, and the faster we can do it, the richer our lives can be, and the sooner we can meet our national priorities, including the goals of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa.
You will further be delighted to learn that today in space science, for example, South Africa boasts advanced astronomical instruments such as the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). However, to fully exploit scientifically the volume of data that we can obtain from this instrument demands the deployment of more human capital than we currently have. Nevertheless, this gap is being filled through our collaboration with scientists from elsewhere in the world, and they in turn have begun to benefit and grow by gaining access to our instruments.
Over millennia, and particularly in today's world, the capacity to innovate, and the speed with which we can do that, have been and are what count. This is essentially why our scientists and technologists should always be alert to even the smallest developments that can make South Africa's materials, services and work processes affordable and better.
As you view the work of science encapsulated by this exhibition, we are hoping you will discover new things about science, and learn a lot about how development is being advanced.
We understand that this fascinating travelling exhibition on frontier scientific research was produced by the Max Planck Society for the Expo 2000 at Hanover, Germany. Subsequent to its premiere show in the Expo 2000, the exhibition has been staged at Beijing, Shanghai, and Manchester in the UK, making South Africa the second country outside Europe to host this exhilarating display.
This 170-metre long multimedia tunnel leads visitors through the new dimensions of cutting edge research, spanning from the smallest particles, all the way to the largest structures in the universe. It shows an array of challenges that today's researchers face in the various dimensions of our existence, including what holds our world together; how life functions in the realm of cells; how our brains work; how we humans interact in society; what makes life on Earth possible, and what our place in the universe is.
In addition, the Science Tunnel is a new and exciting method of building human capacity and raising awareness about science and technology within the country. Through the multi-media presentation of more than a dozen wide-screen projections and hundreds of sensational photos, the visitors here will have an insider look into the fascinating worlds of atoms, matter, planets and outer space.
For a period of two months you will have an opportunity to go through these exhibits - many of them interactive - to observe and discover what scientists explore through complex computer simulations and the most powerful microscopes that the world of science offers.
During this exhibition, South Africa will also have an opportunity to highlight the evolution of our own scientific landscape, our pioneering work and activities, groundbreaking research, achievements and discoveries, including SALT, the Square Kilometre Array and SumbandilaSAT, which will be launching in Russia in a few weeks time.
Naturally, our hosting this breathtaking science extravaganza would not be possible without our country's sound relations with the people and the Federal Republic of Germany. It is to those bonds of relation that I shall now turn.
Since 1994, the historical, political and economic links between Germany and South Africa have developed to such an extent that the relations between the two countries could be described as a formidable strategic partnership.
Germany is one of South Africa's most important trading partners. She is our most important supplier of imports such as capital goods and technology, and ranks second as a purchaser of South African exports, after the United Kingdom. Germany is a major direct investor in South Africa, with an investment volume of around R18-billion, the main sectors being the automotive industry, the chemical industry, and mechanical and electrical engineering. More than 450 German companies provide around 60 000 jobs in South Africa.
A special project for Africa has been introduced between the Volkswagen Company and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) by establishing an International Chair for Automotive Manufacturing at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth. Amongst others, the Chair promotes study programmes of DAAD for young South African engineers by offering one-year study and practical experience programmes at German Universities and industries. Funding in this regard has been disbursed in the form of bursaries, grants, scholarships and co-operative activities for the development of the human capital in science and technology. Our respective Ministries' funding mechanism currently provides grants for at least 75 postgraduate researchers in a range of scientific research areas.
Visits to Germany by our former President Nelson Mandela and current President Thabo Mbeki, as well as the visits of former Chancellor Kohl and former Federal Presidents Herzog and Rau to South Africa in recent years have all contributed to the intensification of these relations.
In 1996 South Africa and Germany signed an inter-governmental bilateral agreement on co-operation in the fields of science, research and technology, an agreement jointly implemented and administrated by the National Research Foundation in South Africa, and the Federal Ministry for Education and Research in Germany.
Although this agreement has already resulted in the funding of more than 300 joint research activities between the two countries to a total amount of almost R20 million, thus far it has operated outside the fixed structure of an annual call for proposals, a procedure which is set to change this year.
We are extremely proud to say that the relationship in science and technology between South Africa and Germany is well established, and covers a wide range of activities. In particular, the following areas of co-operation were identified, and co-operative programmes developed: New Materials and Manufacturing, Renewable Energy, Environmental Issues, Integrated Community Development and Health Programmes, Biotechnology.
These co-operative efforts do not only indicate the need to be competitive in global markets and to be at the forefront of certain scientific endeavours, but it also demonstrates clearly that science and technology play a strong developmental role in our country and mutually beneficial role between our two countries.
My department will continue to play a vital role in ensuring that all players in the country's science and technology system are sensitive to social and economic needs and that together we should address such needs and give our scientists the resources to resolve our social challenges.
A few of the joint projects between South Africa and Germany deserve mention here. They include the best known Coelacanth Project - the fossil fish research project on our eastern seaboard.
Two other major initiatives are Inkaba ye Africa and Biota South. Inkaba ye Africa is a research project closely scrutinising climate, biodiversity, natural hazards and the resources of Africa to facilitate better planning for the future. The project presents a unique opportunity to train a new generation of South African and German post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers from multicultural backgrounds in cutting edge Earth System Science. On the other hand, Biota South is one of the largest ongoing scientific activities in Africa directed at the sustainable use of Africa�s biodiversity.
Of further big economic and technological importance is the role that Germany plays in research and technology transfer in the automotive industry. Among others, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft (FhG) has developed intensive activities with different South African partner organisations, particularly with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. These partnerships resulted in the establishment of the Automotive Supplier Park, which encourages the increased competitiveness of the South African automotive industry.
In a multilateral context, the two countries enjoy a very productive relationship in the projects conducted under the various Framework Programmes of the European Union. I am certain that within the framework of these excellent relations between our two countries, the stage has been set for many more joint efforts in science and technology.
We are delighted that South Africa will host the Science Tunnel Exhibition during this month of May 2007, and this launch coincides with our annual National Science Week. The Science Tunnel we are opening to the public today will remain in South Africa during a time when we are holding our biggest science Imbizo, the National Science Week.
This is the time when we intensify all our efforts to attract our youth, our communities and our women to Science, Engineering and Technology careers by highlighting the important role that science plays in everyday life.
I am certain, therefore, that the Science Tunnel will have a positive contribution towards fostering interest in and attitudes towards science during this intense period of marketing and promoting science across our country.
I wish all of you a most enjoyable and instructive exposure to the Max Planck Science Tunnel.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Science and Technology
18 May 2007