KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, AT THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THE MEDICAL DEVICE ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGY DEMONSTRATOR, AT THE CENTRAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, 8 APRIL, 2022

Ntate Tate Makgoe, MEC for Education, Free State;  

Prof Alfred Ngowi, Acting Vice Chancellor, Central University of Technology;

Ntate Matthew Rantso, Chairperson of the Council of the Central University of Technology;

Dr Mmboneni Muofhe, DDG, Technology Innovation at the Department of Science and Innovation;

Dr Gerrie Booysen, Director of the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen:  

It is my honour and privilege to be speaking to you today on such an important occasion-the launch of the Medical Device Additive Manufacturing Technology Demonstrator.

There is no doubt that the advent of the global COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise even more how important it is for countries on the African continent to proactively invest in medical research and health innovation.

As the custodians of scientific research in South Africa, we as the Department of Science and Innovation are consistently striving to achieve the full potential of science and innovation in areas of social and economic development, through research and innovation. 

This we do by among others, funding research and development at public research institutes and universities and initiating the establishment of new institutions and instruments that are aimed at enhancing the impact of science in society.

One of the areas that we have identified for the purpose of enhancing the impact of science in society, is the area of health innovation.

Our overall objective in this space is to help grow the health economy by providing locally developed and relevant diagnostics and medical devices with the view to boost the manufacturing thereof.

One of our key policy enablers in this respect is our Bio-economy Strategy. Through this Strategy, we seek to support and organise our country's research, development and innovation capabilities in the health sector.

More specifically, we seek to enhance our existing capacity to manufacture active pharmaceutical ingredients, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics and medical devices to address the disease burden while ensuring security and sustainable supply of essential therapeutics and prophylactics.

As some of you may be aware, the development of a medical device industry, as well as the development of additive manufacturing as a key technology to advance the South Africa manufacturing industry, enjoys high priority in various government strategy documents and initiatives. 

This is because there are a number of significant opportunities for the creation of new businesses from the use of additive manufacturing for medical devices. However, there are still a number of key challenges we need to overcome in order to achieve this.

These are challenges such as the inability to bridge the innovation chasm between prototype and commercially viable products due to a lack of availability of infrastructure for technology demonstration and small-scale manufacturing.

The other challenge is the lack of support for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) using additive manufacturing, and a shortage of skills and expertise.

Ladies and gentlemen, our decision to support the establishment of a Medical Device Additive Manufacturing Technology Demonstrator (MedAdd) at this university, was particularly meant to help bridge the innovation chasm in the use of additive manufacturing for medical devices.

However, our decision was also inspired by the fact that, the Central University of Technology, is the leading South African university in the application of additive manufacturing for the production of customised medical implants. 

It is however important to note that, the impact of this expertise and resources on the development of a medical device manufacturing industry has been limited.  This is mainly because of a lack of equipment specifically for medical device manufacturing, for both prototyping and development as well as small scale manufacture to de-risk innovation.

 

In addition, there is a limited number of skilled people who can develop local companies. There is however no doubt that the development of a MedAdd will enhance the current equipment and capabilities at CUT, as well as enable CUT, academic partners and local companies to demonstrate reproducibility and scale up of innovative medical device products. 

Furthermore, MedAdd will also be available for small companies to industrialise new products, de-risking their innovative development before fully-fledged commercialisation.

Additionally, MedAdd will enable students, researchers and industry personnel to develop the required skills for the development of this new technology and new industry. 

The initial performance metrics for MedAdd will be products developed, users trained and stakeholder engagement; however, the number of companies assisted, new companies created, and jobs created and maintained will, once MedAdd and the CUT incubator are fully established, be key performance metrics.

Ladies and gentlemen, from a product development point of view, this facility provides CUT and government with a unique opportunity to create African solutions for South African challenges.

This is particularly important if viewed in the context of the point I made earlier about the need for countries on the African continent to proactively invest in medical research and health innovation.

 

We are confident that, our partnership with CUT will not only improve the cost availability and accessibility of medical devices, but will also create an opportunity for economic growth in the region.

From this, there will also be opportunities that will stimulate the manufacturing sector in Central South Africa.

All of this is particularly important as South Africa is looking to technological innovation to leap frog its development and contribute to national imperatives such as health for all, food security, poverty alleviation, job creation and general socio-economic development as outlined in our country’s National Development Plan.

In conclusion, we wish to congratulate the Central University of Technology, for their vision and foresight in deciding to host this world class facility.

We look forward to the ground breaking and lifesaving innovations that are going to come of this facility.

Thank you

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