National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

About the Awards

The NSTF Awards is the flagship project of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

The NSTF Awards honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation. The awards encourage and reward excellence in:



Management of SET and innovation

Engineering research capacity development


The Green


Data for



Science Communication


4IR technologies


Science Diplomacy

The NSTF Awards established in 1998, have since 2015 been organised in partnership with South32.

The Awards are the largest science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation awards in South Africa and have grown to be the most prestigious public SET and innovation awards in South Africa. The previous award winners are widely recognised as worthy recipients.

The Awards are endorsed by the Ministry and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI); and have been supported since inception by the Department. The Honourable Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, (previously the Minister of Science and Technology), is the official patron of the NSTF-South32 Awards.


  • The NSTF Awards are the only SET awards that are open i.e. where the call for nominations includes the public.
  • The processes and awards events are inclusive and managed in a collaborative way.
  • The awards recognise a variety of outstanding contributions by individuals, organisations and teams.
  • These include all practicing scientists, and other professionals across the ‘national system of innovation’ (NSI).
  • Youth outreach is an integral part of the awards project. Top performing learners in mathematics and science in Grade 12 are recognised every year through the Brilliants Programme. There is also a year-long series of interactions with the public and learners by Award Winners across the country. This is called the NSTF Share ‘n Dare Programme.

Nominations and adjudication process

Nominations are registered online by the first deadline (usually in December). Full nomination documents have to be submitted by the second deadline (usually in March). (Please see the Terms and Conditions – entries must be received on time).

An adjudication panel of independent judges is assembled annually by the NSTF Exco from member nominations . It represents all sectors of the NSTF membership and, in the case of the sponsored categories, representatives of these sponsors. The adjudication panel reviews the nominations, identifies those that are eligible, shortlists the finalists and makes the final selection of winners. A panel of experts is also appointed by the NSTF Executive Committee. These experts assist the adjudication panel by reviewing and providing validation of the selections.

Definitions of science, engineering, technology and innovation


The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the natural and physical world through observation and experiment. This is defined for our purposes to include the social sciences.


Considered as the practical application of scientific knowledge, especially in industry, the built environment, information technology, defence and commerce.


The means by which science is  used to create engineering, machines, systems and methods that can solve problems and achieve goals, in a variety of disciplines and undertakings.


Means the application, in practice, of new technologies, and creative and new ideas. It includes inventions, discoveries and the processes by which new products or changes to existing products and services enter the market and the creation of new businesses.

The generic value chain which links these elements together is expressed in the definition of our national system of innovation (NSI). The value chain spans the stages of inputs, processes, outputs, impacts and outcomes. It specifically includes: research, development and creative work undertaken on a systematic basis. This is in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of people, culture and society and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications. It also includes technology transfer activities associated with research, experimental development and contributing to the dissemination and application of scientific and technical knowledge, education and training.

The value of the NSTF Awards for the nominees
  • The NSTF Awards have long been coveted in South Africa as the ultimate public recognition of achievement and success in the SET and innovation sectors.
    • Winners receive a prestigious, custom-made trophy at the annual NSTF Awards gala dinner which is currently held in both Gauteng and the Western Cape in July of each year. The Awards gala event was moved online in 2020 and a hybrid event was held at simultaneous locations in Gauteng and in the Western Cape and live-streamed in 2021, 2022 and 2023. A similar event is planned for 2024.
    • Finalists are featured in the ‘Who’s Who of SET and Innovation in South Africa’, an annual publication of the NSTF.
    • Award winners are profiled as ambassadors of SET to the youth at high schools, science centres and science festivals across South Africa through the Share ‘n Dare Programme, where the winners share their experiences with the youth and ‘dare’ them to take up SET studies and careers. Videos of the Award winners are produced to share online and screen at schools and science centres.
    • High-profile recognition is given and sought for winners and finalists on various media platforms, including the media sponsors, Business Report and the Mail&Guardian newspapers.
Purpose of the NSTF Awards

The NSTF Awards honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to SET and innovation in South Africa. This is done so that:

  • Excellence is promoted among SET practitioners in research, development and innovation (RDI)
  • Recognition is given to excellent contributions to SET and innovation, including those contributions which make research possible and build capacity in the SET system and where research is facilitated through access to data which has been collected and curated
  • Young people are encouraged to undertake studies and careers in SET
  • The communication of science and the sharing of knowledge are promoted 
  • Ultimately the purpose of the NSTF Awards is to contribute to achieving sustainable socio-economic growth for South Africa and to improving the quality of people’s lives.
Objectives of the NSTF Awards
  • To celebrate, acknowledge and promote excellence in the South African scientific, research, development and innovation (RDI), engineering and other technical communities
  • To recognise individuals, organisations and teams, cutting across sectors, levels, gender and race 
  • To recognise work that is professional, innovative, forward-looking and relevant to both South Africa and the rest of the world
  • To encourage the involvement and participation of SET organisations in research and innovation while raising awareness among the general public about local research and innovation and its relevance
  • To address government human resources targets by:
    • involving business
    • drawing attention to scarce skills
    • profiling role models
    • facilitating and recognising knowledge transfer to learners and students, and
    • encouraging the youth to pursue careers in SET

NSTF-South32 Awards


The NSTF welcomes collaboration with other organisations, such as those they have been in partnerships with for many years:

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