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Dr Adam Pantanowitz has been appointed as the inaugural Angela and David Fine Chair in Innovation and the first Director of the Wits Innovation Centre (WIC), and Mr Letlotlo Phohole as the Senior Programme Manager of the WIC.

Dr Adam Pantanowitz, Angela and David Fine Chair in Innovation and the Director of the Wits Innovation Centre (WIC)Dr Adam Pantanowitz

Angela and David Fine Chair in Innovation | Director of the Wits Innovation Centre

“Wits is a place brimming with all of the ingredients for innovation: brilliant minds, academic freedom, multi-disciplinary work, diversity of thought, and remarkable research. I see unbridled potential for us to solve problems from our unique vantage point, and ultimately to make change happen from within the Wits ecosystem for the benefit of society at large. The best part is that we can all be a part of this.”

Dr Adam Pantanowitz is an iconic biomedical and electrical engineer, well-known for initiating and leading the first group in the world to connect a human brain live and mobile to the internet in a project called the Brainternet – a term he coined. He joined the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at Wits University in 2009 where he lectures in engineering and medicine.

An artificial intelligence expert, technologist, and entrepreneur, Pantanowitz uses his applied sciences skills to make real-world impact. He is the co-founder or early-stage partner of multiple startups such as AURA (a mobile security app), Resolute Robotics (an online education forum to promote engineering and robotics), think3dots (an innovative incubator focused on biotechnology, AI, and engineering), and Tariffic (a platform to best predict a customer's preferred mobile plan).

His areas of expertise are applied artificial intelligence, ethics, biotechnology, engineering, and robotics. His research has been published in international peer-reviewed journals and has also resulted in a number of patents.

Pantanowitz’s collaborative projects with students and colleagues at Wits include an eye-controlled wheelchair; a non-cognitive brain transmission channel using light; a brain visual process model using light; a thought-controlled robotic arm with a light-invoked on/off switch; a hands-free controlled surgery interaction system; an AI system to evaluate efficacy of CPR; a computer-based sign language interpreter; and an eye-controlled mouse cursor using the vestibulo-ocular reflex, among others.

Pantanowitz completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Wits University, and holds Bachelors’ degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical Engineering (both with distinction), a Masters of Science in Engineering (with distinction), and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering focussed on AI applied in healthcare innovation.

He is an internationally recognised chartered engineer (Pr Eng, CEng, EUR ING, IntPE). He is one of the youngest global Fellows of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (UK) (FIET), and he is a Senior Member of the IEEE (SMIEEE) and of the SAIEE (SMSAIEE). He is also an expert at the Singularity Group.

Pantanowitz is a global motivational speaker who passionately incorporates technology, ideas, ethics and his own professional experience and personal journey in his talks on human-computer integration, AI, robotics, the future of business, productivity, and living as a human in the era of automation. He has spoken on 5 continents about innovation work he has done at Wits, and on motivational topics.

Letlotlo Phohole, Senior Programme Manager of the Wits Innovation Centre (WIC)Letlotlo Phohole

Senior Programme Manager

“My vision for the WIC is to ignite a passion for innovation and progress in all Faculties, inter-Faculty entities and members of the Wits community, with a focus on serving society through our efforts. We will achieve this by continuously embracing the spirit of learning, challenging our own mental models and collaborating with a diverse range of stakeholders both within and beyond the university. By doing so, we will maintain Wits as a leader in shaping the future and creating positive impact.”

Letlotlo Phohole is a seasoned technology and innovation management professional with over 25 years of experience spread across industry, government agencies, academia and entrepreneurship.

He has a proven track record of integrating engineering, systems engineering, technology management and business consulting to create effective holistic solutions that benefit multiple industries like mining, manufacturing, automotive, aerospace & defence, arts & craft and freight logistics.

Before officially joining the Wits Innovation Centre, Phohole played a key role in developing the Wits Strategic Plan on Innovation (2022 – 2026) and will continue to establish the Centre as a leading interface for research-led, researcher-led, and student-led innovation at Wits in collaboration industry and the National System of Innovation.

He has extensive experience in developing and implementing technology and innovation management strategies and technology transfer vehicles, and is very passionate about small business start-up development & support, education and training, and innovation-based enterprises.

Phohole holds an MSc in Technology and Innovation Management and has been instrumental in applying systems engineering to tackle wicked problems. He has taught systems thinking courses through various Wits institutions, as well as conceptualised the MIT FabLab Certification program - an informal, peer-to-peer, project-based technical education, now called Fab Degree.

His previous roles include, Acting Director of the Wits Transnet Centre of Systems Engineering (TCSE) and the Transnet Matlafatšo Centre, as well as the Chief Technology and Systems Officer of the TCSE; General Manager: Advanced Manufacturing at the Technology Innovation Agency; Technical Lead for the National Foundry Technology Network (a DTIC initiative on Technology Localisation); Technical Centre Manager at the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy Implementation Unit (A DSI initiative); and Technology Analyst for DebTech (the R&D wing of De Beers Consolidated Mines).

In 2020, Phohole led a team of Wits heroes involved in designing and producing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His experience has shaped his personality towards a higher degree of self-awareness, adaptive capacity and the competencies to thrive in any future.