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The future is innovation

- Wits University

"Wits and Tshimologong are the pioneers driving Gauteng to a modern economy in the new age of the digital revolution," said Premier David Makhuru.

The Gauteng Premier was leading a delegation of the provincial government who recently visited Wits University's Tshimologong Digital Innovation Hub and the IBM Research lab next door to see first-hand how this Precinct in Braamfontein is developing tech and digital skills, incubating start-ups and driving innovation.

Hosted by Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs at Wits, and the founder and creater of the Tshimologong Precinct, Professor Barry Dwolatzky, Makhuru was accompanied by Gauteng MECs Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko (Finance and eGoverment) and Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa (Economic Development, Environment and Agriculture).

Setswana for “new beginnings”, Tshimologong is Johannesburg's newest high-tech hub where the incubation of digital entrepreneurs, commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth takes place.

The future is innovation 

In his address, Makhuru said this is the first time he is visiting Tshimologong and he is very impressed "to see the results and outcomes of the vision that Professor Dwolatzky - the driving force behind the Tshimologong Precinct - has for Braamfontein, Johannesburg and Gauteng".

"The Provincial Government is working with Wits and others to build an innovation corridor that will stretch from Braamfontein to Auckland Park. Tshimologong is already doing great work in the development of skills for our future; and is a key contributor to the concentration of innovation in the province. As a central innovation corridor, the Precinct feeds into the collaborative vision we see for Gauteng’s digital economy," said Makhuru.

SA's Tech Village: A nerve centre for innovation and incubation

Joining the delegation, Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Wits, shared Wits' vision for Braamfontein, saying Tshimologong is where "we incubate new digital entrepreneurs, create new startups in fields such as fintech, hightech, socialtech, miningtech and more. Tshimologong is the place where new ideas are created and where, collectively, we find innovative solutions to the challenges facing our society". 

Makers and innovators

The delegation also visited Tshimologong Makerspace where a group of intrepid inventors are hosted in the App Factory. The space seeks to promote and enable access to innovation through collaborative making, training, upskilling and experimentation/purposeful play (R&D - Research and Development).

Some of the practical engagements housed in the space include Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies such as 3D printing (prototyping & customisation), laser cutting, IoT (Internet of Things), electronics and robotics; Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR); and design for digital fabrication. 

South Africa becomes quantum ready

Following the visit to Tshimologong, the delegation moved on to the IBM Research Lab next door to learn more about how Wits is collaborating with IBM on quantum computing research, big data, cloud computing and innovation in health care, digital urban ecosystems and astronomy.

This year, Wits University became the first African partner to join the IBM Q Network and will be the gateway for academics across South Africa and the 15 universities who are part of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) to gain access to the IBM Q quantum cloud service.

“Having access to IBM Q is pivotal for Wits University’s cross-disciplinary research program and allows our researchers in quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and in the broad natural sciences, including in laser technology, quantum optics and molecular design, to leverage the next level of discovery research. It’s envisioned that the first results from this collaboration will be forthcoming in the next two years,” said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi.

It also places Wits at the centre of the quantum computing revolution in Africa.

"Far from being a leap of faith, investment in quantum technologies in South Africa is crucial if we want to leverage the next level of discovery research that can help us to address the country’s most intractable problems. Just as crucial is the digital economic potential that quantum computing holds for technology start-ups in the hardware and software development fields. One of the most promising applications of quantum computing will be in the area of chemistry. In the South African context, early interest in this field is in HIV drug delivery research." - Professor Zeblon Vilakazi

Read more about Wits' efforts in quantum computing.