Can you please introduce your organisation and field of expertise?
The Water Research Commission (WRC) is an entity of the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation established in 1971 in terms of the SA Water Research Act (Act No 34 of 1971). With the mandate to facilitate, guide and fund new knowledge generation and development of innovation solutions to respond to the SA water challenges and improve quality of life for the people of South Africa, the WRC vision is to have highly informed water decision-making through science and technology at all levels in all stakeholder groups in the water sector in SA, the rest of the African continent and the world. The WRC mission is to become a regional water knowledge hub and South Africa’s premier water knowledge resource, active across the entire water innovation value chain world. The WRC house a large number of research and development expertise such as water resources management and ecosystems, water use and waste water management and water utilisation in agriculture. The WRC also has long standing expertise and experience in managing large water and sanitation innovation programmes beyond SA boarders, positioning the WRC as a key and strategic African partner for water and sanitation research, development and innovation.
With whom (other colleagues) from your organisation are you taking part in Watershare?
- Dr Mamohloding Tlhagale – the Relationship Manager for Watershare partnership and main WRC representative in Watershare
- Dr Valerie Naidoo, providing business development and innovation expertise and guidance as the WRC tech, innovation and business development expert
- Dr Shafick Adams providing water resources management and ecosystems and our Groundwater expert and
- Mr Jay Bhagwan, providing water use and waste water management expertise and the WRC sanitation expert.
What can you bring to Watershare and what are you looking for?
In addition to the technical expertise mentioned above we also bring extended programme management expertise, large amount of research knowledge, products and services, a network of researchers, innovators and policy stakeholders in SA. The WRC can also facilitate partnerships with SA and other African stakeholders to provide environments for demonstrations (testbeds) of new innovations and facilitate uptake of research products, tools and services.
We are looking for:
- Access to knowledge and expertise existing within the WaterNet members teams
- Members adding value to the WRC business through guidance and sharing best practice
- Watershare to provide a platform for joint learning, identification or needs which will lead to joint programming to address members RDI needs, developing joint proposals and co-funding projects of mutual interests. Watershare is a good collaborative platform but we think it should establish more activities to facilitate exchange of knowledge and disseminate members innovative solutions. Currently we only have the Board meeting and additional operational activities would add value to the network. This could include dissemination and training on available solutions and not only looking at Watershare or European innovation but all quality and relevant innovation from member countries. The network could make use of the virtual platforms to implement this additional activities inviting relevant stakeholders from each member country and beyond. This can be a good marketing platform.
What are you proud of?
The network itself is a good collaborative platform and we have seen several good joint projects, the membership bring and vast variety of partners into the partnership. However the network should improve on the coverage and profile of all members solutions to not seem one way (Europe to others). All partners have good innovations which could be useful. For example, SA have innovation that may not be useful for developed countries but will for share be valued and have impact in developing countries. So Watershare should look at bringing more partners from developing countries on board to add value to all its members.
What do you see as the biggest challenges for Waterhare in 2020-2021?
Not being able to enjoy the benefits of what a physical meeting bring to the partnership due to COVID-19 lockdowns and members not having funds to allocate to joint projects and activities due to re-allocation of funds to national priorities in response to COVID-19.
What are your ambitions as a Watershare member?
To strengthen our international RDI partnership and to see all Watershare members having mutual beneficial from being partners and value added to their business. A membership growing to include more African and other developing partners, developing joint proposals for joint programming and co-funding of RDI projects. It is however important for Watershare to have clear business model post joint projects i.e. differentiate between our tools and that of the private sector, agree on how to take joint project results forward and the monitoring model. Are we envisioning Watershare tools becoming open source tools across the world in the new future? Are we licensing the tools to companies and then they pay some return to the network? Clarity regarding monitoring model will help to facilitate uptake of tools.
Coronavirus/Virus research: What opportunities do you see for Watershare members?
- Joint learning,
- Sharing of protocols and other tools to add value to other members COVID-19 related projects and activities
- Develop joint proposals to seek third party funding and maybe consider a workshop to disseminate and share results of Watershare members projects and programme open to other stakeholders. This will showcase Watershare members expertise and joint effort.