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Biofibre research hub for Coega

Home Engineering Chemical Biofibre research hub for Coega

THE Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) in the Eastern Cape, will work together in the development of an industrial research facility dedicated to the production of commercially viable biofibre products and applications.

CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini and his counterpart at the CDC, Khwezi Tiya, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that paves the way for a public-private partnership that will allow local industry to make headway in the undersupplied global market of biofibres.

A biofibre facility will be established in the Coega Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The initial set up will comprise the relocation of CSIR fibre processing equipment to the Coega SEZ.

The facility will be a full-scale multipurpose manufacturing plant capable of fibre processing, air lathe for making non-woven composites, seed dehulling and cracking bio-oils, including hemp and flax to produce bio-composites.

“As a preferred investment destination on the African continent, the Coega SEZ creates sustainable value for local and global investors in accordance with the Industrial Policy Action Plan, which identifies SEZs as key contributors to economic development and growth engines towards government’s strategic objectives of industrialisation, regional development, and employment creation”, said Tiya.

The partnership aims to boost government’s strategic intent to create a future cannabis (hemp) industry, in line with the national draft master plan to commercialise South Africa’s cannabis industry, which includes both dagga and hemp.

The initiative aims to create 25 000 jobs in the Eastern Cape over the next five years, while rekindling industrial growth and adding potentially one percent to the gross domestic product of the Eastern Cape over the next five years.

The joint venture comes after both parties identified the strategic value of relocating the CSIR-owned fibre textile research unit, currently based at the Nelson Mandela University Campus, a predominantly academic setting, to the industry-oriented Coega SEZ. This, it is hoped, will boost the province’s employment rate and the incipient fibre-based composites industry in South Africa.

Speaking during the virtual signing event, Dlamini expressed the importance of using available resources to strengthen industrial development to create much-needed jobs in the country.

“The CSIR Strategy seeks to support South African industries to develop products and services that will translate into value-added production and the commercialisation of intellectual property. We hope that, out of this partnership, new enterprises will emerge and that this will contribute to economic growth and job creation.”

As part of the agreement, the CSIR and CDC will establish an incubation programme, which will support manufacturers by fostering industrial partnerships, making skills and technology available to entrepreneurs, and providing business advice, capital and market opportunities.

This facility will also allow emerging manufacturers that intend to produce for export to locate at the SEZ and enjoy the existing range of benefits and services offered.

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