Transnet/CSIR partnership can drive innovation

Transnet and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have signed a partnership agreement in what could make a space to watch if the partnership breaks the mould.

Transnet said it will work with the CSIR in identifying possible areas of cooperation and enter into specific arrangements in all areas of Transnet’s operations. These include port, rail and pipeline operations. Ownership and other rights, especially intellectual property, will be negotiated on a project basis, depending on the work to be done.

In theory, the linkup between the state owned transport and logistics group Transnet and CSIR, mimics the historical partnerships which have delivered the greatest of inventions in South Africa’s industrial revolution and many technological advancement throughout the globe. Institutions like Sasol, Iscor, Eskom, Denel, etc should come to mind when measuring the potential of such a partnership.

While many seem to believe otherwise it was a state institution, The Pentagon, which planted the seeds that have come to deliver the information and communication technology revolution, through earlier versions of the internet.

If brave enough Transnet and CSIR have the potential to do great things. Transnet CEO Brian Molefe seems to rrealise this if his words are anything to go by.

“For Transnet to play its rightful role in the economy, we have to grow, invest and modernise at an unprecedented rate. Therefore, we need to constantly explore innovations and technological advancements. We have that in abundance at the CSIR, an institution that has developed the expertise over the last couple of decades”.

“With this agreement, we have given ourselves access, not only to decades of the knowledge we need, but to a body of specialised skills that the CSIR has at its disposal,” said Molefe.

CSIR Chief Executive Officer, Sibusiso Sibisi said “This partnership is an excellent opportunity for the CSIR to provide comprehensive research and development support to a pivotal state-owned company such as Transnet. Supporting industry is in keeping with our mandate. We are excited to be part of a series of projects that, apart from benefiting the sophistication and modernisation of Transnet’s operations, will assist in job creation and growing South Africa’s economy.”

Transnet is about to enter into the second year of its rolling seven-year Market Demand Strategy, which entails a huge improvement in its operations, including its capital investment programme, volumes, operational efficiencies and safety levels.

Transnet said the partnership will augment its in-house engineering and project management unit – Transnet Capital Projects- which manages Transnet’s mega projects.

Transnet and the CSIR have started work on the following areas:

  • Infrastructure, including rail, port and coastal engineering, roads and buildings;
  • Rolling stock, including energy efficiency, alternative fuels and energy regeneration;
  • Operations – water use, waste management systems, logistics supply chain, greening, climate change, sensor tracking and automation as well as safety and security; and
  • Strategic decision support which looks into planning, environmental management system and enterprise engineering.

Transnet has previously used the CSIR’s services on various specialised projects including:

  • Monitoring of the quality of water in all ports
  • Ports maintenance dredging support at the Port of Durban
  • Marine life monitoring at all ports
  • Waste water monitoring for the Durban-to-Johannesburg fuel pipeline.

“The CSIR’s expertise will come in handy in various areas of our operations. This is particularly so in Environmental Management, a key focus area of our strategy and a major challenge for our divisions, especially projects,” said Molefe.


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