KANYE – The Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI) has one of the best capabilities to characterize material; so it is in the process of setting up the Centre for Material Science. It will thus be in a position to service various stakeholders especially in the building, mining, forensic and health sectors.
The institution’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor Nelson Torto highlighted so while addressing members of the Press at its Kanye campus the past Thursday.
Underscoring on the progress the institute has made since formation Professor Torto said they established partnerships and collaborations.
“We see collaboration and partnership as the most cost effective way of conducting research, given our late participation in this area as a nation. BITRI is working closely with farmers, village residents, industry, research organizations, academic institutions; all these are in Botswana, regionally as well as internationally,” enlightened Torto.
He gave the example that they have enjoyed a good relationship with Pyro Carbon Energy in the area of coal beneficiation, hence they house two pilot plants that belong to PCE.
“We work very closely with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) of South Africa in the area of TV white space. Also in South Africa we have good relations with MINTEK to the extent that we have held a workshop and one of our associate researchers spent three months learning some extraction metallurgy. We have had one of our researchers visit and stay in Canada for six months at the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency (CFIA). Locally we work very closely with Botswana Vaccine Institute (BVI). We have been conducting studies and evaluating our water filters in collaboration with Water Utilities Cooperation,” he said, adding that BITRI on areas of climate change and energy has partnerships with United Nations Development Programme ÔÇôGlobal Environment Facility/ Small Grants Programme (UNDP-GEF/SGP). It also collaborates with BIUST, UB and BCET who house some of their facilities.
Furthermore, he said BITRI is also collaborating with BCL on the area of Copper beneficiation. They hope this will be extended to Soda Ash as they have been able to identify some synergies. It has also collaborated with the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), BIUST and BAS in hosting the General Assembly of AAS in Kasane recently. BITRI is also working closely with University of South Africa (UNISA) in the area of coal beneficiation they are collaborating with Rutgers University and Princeton in the USA. Their current task involves hosting the African Material Science Conference that will take place in Gaborone in December 2017. The last example that has also delivered is their partnership with Commlight, a division of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.
On key research outputs Prof Torto mentioned Foot and Mouth Diagnostic kit. They did it in collaboration with BVI and CFIA. They have significantly advanced their efforts towards the production of a diagnostic kit for the detection of FMD. When ready, the kit should be able to detect FMD in an animal within 25 minutes at site, and should assist in monitoring the disease.
“We have developed an energy monitoring device. The unit will help in the monitoring of the use and use distribution of energy in households, which should be launched very soon. BITRI has been involved in developing material to be used for both water and air filters. If you recall your last tour of our laboratories, we introduced you to electro spinning. So electro spun material has been optimized for water filtration and now requires development and incorporation into a device. We are ready to launch our Morabaraba mobile application. The new version is simply too good,” he said and added that hopefully media will be told about the launch date soon.
On projects of National interest Torto explained that they established ICT Associates Entrepreneurship programme.
“What is perfectly acceptable is that the best resource that the country has is its youth. Globally unemployment is a challenge for every nation. So at BITRI we have seen it fit to establish a program where ICT graduates from various sectors spend two years with us for them to go through various training, retooling and enhance their capacity to be employers. We have 57 ICT associates and they are evenly distributed in Palapye, Gaborone and Kanye,” said Torto.
He said this is the second year of the programme. Most of the associates have made good progress and they are optimistic that some of their projects will be future successful companies. BITRI established Kgalagadi Sands Block Bricks (KSBB) Depots nationwide. This is the technology where sandy soils of Botswana, are used to produce bricks. The technology utilizes flyash and blends it with OPC or klinka. It is viewed to be a cost effective way for the construction industry. The advantages of this technology are that it eliminates the use of river sand and also eliminates the contamination of underground water resources through disposal of fly ash. Several thousands of tonnes of flyash are produced from coal power stations and thus finding use for such a resource is desirable. BITRI established a KSSB depot in Tsabong and work in other districts is in progress as 29 KSBB depots will be established at the end of the rollout. Four more depots will be ready for use by September 2016: Takatokwane, Goodhope, Kasane, Lehututu.