National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Special Annual Theme Award

About the Award

For 2022 this Award is made for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation from research and development in the Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development. Special Annual Theme Award: The NSTF is making a special award this year for an outstanding contribution to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation from research and development in the Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development. This is in recognition of the declaration by the United Nations Educational and Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of the International Year of Basic Sciences (IYBSSD) for Sustainable Development as 2022. The Basic Sciences are defined as being: mathematics, physics, chemistry, life sciences, earth sciences and astronomy.

Quoting from the UN website: Basic sciences have an important contribution to make to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) programme – UN Agenda 2030. They provide the essential means to meet crucial challenges, such as universal access to food, energy, health coverage and communication technologies. They enable us to understand the impact of the currently nearly 8 billion people on the planet and to act to limit, and sometimes even to reduce the impact: e.g. depletion of the ozone layer, climate change, depletion of natural resources, extinction of living species.

* Without the results produced for decades, and even centuries, by basic, curiosity-driven scientific research, however, the global situation would have been much worse.

* Without basic sciences, how would we know that infection is caused by a virus, what does that virus look like, what are its genetic sequence and variations? We could go on with a long list: testing, treatments, vaccines, epidemiological modelling, and even highspeed, long-distance communications – in short, everything that helps us fight the pandemic and its consequences – are all rooted in basic sciences.

* The COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder of our dependence on basic science to ensure balanced, sustainable, and inclusive development of the planet.

* Highlight links between the basic sciences and the Sustainable Development Goals.

* key moment of mobilization to convince economic and political leaders, as well as the general public, of their importance.

* Applications of technology at the basis of major technological advances that stimulate innovation, as well as essential for training future professionals and for developing capacity of populations who can take part in decisions that affect their future.

See International Year of Basic Sciences for Development – Scientists for the Planet (iybssd2022.org)

Several SDGs are explicitly linked to scientific advances:

1. Health and well-being (SDG 3);

2. Clean water and sanitation (SDG 6);

3. Affordable and clean energy (SDG 7);

4. Climate action (SDG 13);

5. Life below water (SDG 14);

6. Life on land (SDG 15).

But in fact all SDGs require the input of science and technology and these are derived from the basic sciences.

The Web – Was invented at CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research) from the need for global collaboration for experiments in fundamental physics and it has been developed thanks to powerful algorithms.

Vaccination –has been strengthened and developed through the identification of the viral origin of many diseases.

DNA sequencing – Progress in DNA sequencing, thanks to biomathematics, chemistry and physics, is now guiding medicine towards more effective individualized treatments.

Energy – Renewable energy production and storage depend on advances in physics, chemistry and material sciences.

Themes: priorities by UNESCO and the United Nations.

* Strengthening the presence and the visibility of women

* Basic sciences as sources of international dialogue and peace

* Science as a global public good

* Innovation and economic development

* Education and human development

* Meeting global challenges

The scope of nominations could include:

* All areas of SET and innovation that contribute to the knowledge base that supports all areas of the economy in a sustainable manner in SA;

* Research and development which seeks to add to and builds on this knowledge base in SA.

* We restrict what the award embraces to the science, technology and engineering and related innovations which support the economy in a sustainable manner.

* Finding innovative solutions to challenges in the economy, including solutions based on indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) which are based on one or more of the basic sciences, directed towards sustainable development in South Africa, particularly for job creation and the alleviation of poverty will also be considered in this category.

* projects in mathematics, physics, chemistry, the life sciences, the earth sciences and astronomy and their interdisciplinary areas, in other words, any project that necessitates research in the basic sciences, including that research in the basic sciences which provides a means to solve a problem related to another area. Thus, research on the mechanisms of cell-cell interaction and its implications for combating disease would be a project within the scope of basic science.

The work can be theoretical, or practical, and should endeavour to include analyses of the approximate or relative costs involved to commercialise the work. The International Year is an opportunity to raise awareness on how basic sciences can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development.

The Annual Theme Award can be awarded according to the criteria in any one of the other Awards categories, which are described in detail on separate pages and the respective nomination forms for each category.

In the last section of the nomination forms additional input is requested to the extent that is practical.

* Describe in what way the work and outputs described in the motivation are based on one or more of the basic sciences. A comprehensive description is needed and claims must be backed up with substantive information. Do not repeat what has already been set out in the main motivation, but some reference to the relevant information in the main motivation where applicable would be necessary.

* What further developments would be necessary for the outputs described to become innovations if they are not already? Are these new uses new applications or reconfigurations of older applications?

* Over and above what has been stated in the motivation, is there any possible further contribution to the economy from the SET work?

* To what extent does the work and outputs provide for ssocial inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction?

* To what extent is the SET work resource efficient, and does it contribute to environmental protection and to the reduction of the effects of/on climate change?

* Describe to what extent the SET work contributes to the preservation of cultural values, supports diversity and respects heritage where applicable?

* Describe to what extent the SET work contributes to mutual understanding and peace and security?

* The nominator should endeavour to include analyses of the approximate or relative costs involved to commercialise the work .


Year 2021

SATA: Towards the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development

Winner: Dr Tegan Bristow –  Senior Lecturer and Director Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival, School of Fine Arts, University of the Witwatersrand


Year 2020

SATA : Plant Health

Winner: Prof Michael Wingfield – Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, University of Pretoria

Year 2019

SATA: Materials for inclusive economic development

Winner: Prof Alexander Quandt – University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)

Year: 2018

SATASustainable Energy for All

Winner: Prof Harald Winkler

Year: 2017

SATASustainable Tourism for Development

Winner: Prof Melville Saayman

Year: 2016

SATA Crop Science and Food security

Winner: Prof David Berger

Year: 2015

SATA:  Photonics

Winner: Prof Andrew Forbes

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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