Dr Clifford Nxomani, Deputy CEO: National Research Infrastructure Platforms, National Research Foundation;

Dr Faïҫal Azaiez, Director: iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences;

Paolo Giubellino, Scientific Managing Director: Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research;

Karlheinz Langanke, Research Director: Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research;

Navin Alahari, Director: Large Heavy Ion National Accelerator;

Muhsin Harakeh, Coordinator: European Integrated Research Activities at the Nuclear Structure, Astrophysics and Reactions (NUSTAR) Collaboration;

Prof. Sydney Gales, Chair: iThemba LABS Scientific Technical Advisory Council;

Deputy Vice-Chancellors present;

Deans of Science present;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen.

 

Firstly, I would like to thank the organisers of the conference for inviting me to join you today.  I would also like to extend a warm welcome to our international guests.  I could not join you on the first day of the conference, but I am very pleased to be here today and to welcome you all to our country and to our beautiful city of Cape Town.

 

Nuclear science is popularly known for its application in the weapons industry, and in our country, nuclear technology has been the subject of much discussion in the context of energy generation.  What is less known, however, is that nuclear science is much broader than the two areas I have just cited.

 

The public discussion of nuclear science, in most cases, neglects the fact that nuclear physics has varied applications within transdisciplinary areas as diverse as energy, nuclear waste processing and transmutation, climate change containment, life sciences and cancer therapy, environment and space, security and monitoring, materials science, cultural heritage, arts and archaeology.

 

In fact, modern medicine derives many benefits from nuclear science, both in terms of diagnosis and therapy.  Nuclear physics provides fundamental support to specialist physicians, such as oncologists, radiologists, radiotherapists and nuclear medicine specialists, in their quest to improve early detection of diseases and to adopt the most appropriate therapeutic approaches in treating their patients.

 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), "non-communicable diseases – including cancer – have become more prominent in Africa over the last decade, as a result of longer life expectancy due to improved health care and changes in lifestyle."  The WHO predicted that by 2030, at least one million people in Africa will die of cancer annually.  At this rate, cancer will overtake HIV/Aids, Ebola, malaria and other infectious diseases as the number one killer of people in Africa.  In this regard, the WHO recommended that African governments make long-term investments in the establishment and improvement of radiotherapy facilities on the continent.

 

As a country, we have invested in facilities at the iThemba Laboratory for Accelerator-Based Sciences (iThemba LABS) precisely to enable it to participate in the research and development of applications of nuclear technology.  As the sole provider of this unique infrastructure, iThemba LABS has become the hub for a vibrant research, human capital development, and collaboration network for nuclear sciences that includes South African universities and research institutions and their international counterparts.

 

The facility enjoys a prominent global position, and plays a critical role in coordinating the continental contribution to collaborative initiatives with prestigious institutions such as the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).  Through research in, and production of, accelerator-based radioisotopes, iThemba LABS demonstrates the translation of basic and applied research to innovative real-world solutions.  This makes the facility a world leader in the accelerator-based production of long-lived radioisotopes for use in a range of medical applications.

 

Furthermore, iThemba LABS will soon establish a technology transfer innovation platform (TIP) which will be geared at bridging the gap between research and prototype product development in the innovation value chain.

 

The activities of TIP will be centred on upgrades at iThemba LABS, CERN and the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Russia, and will focus on the development of accelerator technologies, detectors and electronic components.  TIP will also function as an innovation hub where technology transfer and innovation drive the ecosystem.  More importantly, the facility will play a critical role in enabling direct economic impacts through the incubation of start-up initiatives.

 

The Separated Sector Cyclotron (SSC) at iThemba LABS was commissioned in 1985 and is now an ageing research platform.  iThemba LABS has therefore developed a robust and holistic strategy for preserving the SSC for dedicated research and training.  We have secured additional funding from the National Treasury to create the South African Isotope Facility (SAIF), which will enable a significant increase in the production of exotic radioisotopes for the local and international market.

 

The SAIF implementation plan consists of two independent phases.  The first phase will require the establishment of the Accelerator Centre for Exotic Isotopes (ACE-Isotopes).  This will support the migration of the radioisotope production programme at iThemba LABS from the SSC to a proposed new 70 MeV cyclotron.  This migration will enable the SSC to devote capacity to the facility's transdisciplinary research agenda.

 

It is envisaged that phase 2 of the SAIF will begin after the completion and commissioning of ACE-Isotopes, and will involve the development of an Accelerator Centre for Exotic Beams (ACE-Beams) in support of the production of accelerated exotic isotopes by iThemba LABS' Low-energy Rare Isotope Beam (LERIB) programme.  ACE-Beams will invigorate basic and applied research in innovative fields, such as understanding the origin and creation of the chemical elements of the universe.

 

In addition to the SAIF, iThemba LABS is in the process of establishing a training institute, the Southern African Institute for Nuclear Technology and Sciences (SAINTS).  The institute will be implemented in partnership with higher education institutions and international collaborators.  SAINTS will augment existing training programmes by providing short courses for student and staff development.  The institute will also improve the quality of MSc programmes by introducing a taught component for advanced topics in nuclear and material sciences.

 

South Africa has active global knowledge partnerships and long-standing collaborations with leading science nations, resulting in increasing international mobility (inward and outward) of researchers.  South African researchers, through the work of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), have formalised access to global research organisations such as CERN.  We plan to increase and strengthen these collaborations, based on the understanding that the advancement of science is a crucial aspect of advancing human progress.

 

In this connection, we are honoured to host the 6th International Conference on Collective Motion in Nuclei under Extreme Conditions.  This is in line with our strategic goal of increasing collaboration with researchers from around the globe.  I hope that the expertise you will be sharing during this conference will be translated into tangible benefits for all of humanity, in particular on our continent of Africa, which is in dire need of solutions to its many challenges.

 

Once again I welcome you all to South Africa, and I wish you well in your deliberations.

 

I thank you.