Nedbank awards UJ new Research Chair

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) gathers momentum, worldwide, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) is positioning itself as a major player in the evolution of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) on the continent.

In recent years, the use of artificial intelligence has been attracting growing attention across the globe and expectations are high for research and development (R&D) that seeks new possibilities and to consider old scientific challenges from a new angle.

To this end, Nedbank has awarded the University a Research Chair that will work towards and develop advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.

Professor Terence van Zyl, a frontrunner in data science research and Einstein Awardee (CSIR Research and Innovation), is heading up the new Nedbank Research Chair as of 1 July 2020. This Chair is housed within UJ’s Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS).

“We are thankful to Nedbank for collaborating with the University and awarding the Nedbank Research Chair at the Institute for Intelligent Systems. We welcome Prof van Zyl as the Nedbank Research Chair and are sure that he will make a meaningful and substantial contribution to the fourth industrial revolution initiatives through his research work which will benefit academia, the banking sector and the society at large,” says Professor Babu Paul, Director, Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS).

Prof van Zyl, as the new incumbent will provide leadership for a major expansion in the Institute, education programmes and scientific directions of computer science, building upon ongoing data science projects and catalyzing the development of new collaborations within the University and with partners outside the University.

Speaking of his appointment, Prof van Zyl says, “I’m inspired to accept this role at a time when it is increasingly apparent that our foreseeable future will be a very different place beyond our current crisis,” said Prof van Zyl.

“Computing has transformed from a reactive tool on a desk into an active part of our ordinary lives. “AI, data science and algorithms now guide and influence almost all areas of human endeavour. By their very nature technologies are both a democratiser and enabler of research, innovation, social and economic impact. As the Nedbank Research Chair, I hope to significantly expand the impact of the 4IR for South Africa onto the international stage,” explained Prof van Zyl.

Prof van Zyl’s role is to increase scientific research and innovation in areas aligned to the multi-disciplinary nature of 4IR. The position also requires the Chair to significantly improve international research and innovation competitiveness in the technological revolution – while responding to national social and economic challenges; attracting and retaining researchers and growing the Master’s and Doctoral graduates aligned with Nedbank and UJ’s vision of 4IR and develop an innovative ecosystem for mid-career researchers through championing and expanding existing talent pathways.

Prof Saurabh Sinha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation added – “The progression of 4IR and COVID-19 pandemic has required us to think and do things differently. There has been a rapid change in the nature of doing work – in academia, civil society, and business, including the banking sector. The Nedbank Research chair will be tackling some of these problems using innovative approaches and technologies of the fourth industrial revolution. These approaches would also be transdisciplinary as that is what ultimately defines the solution space and impact.”

Investment in research, through the Research Chairs, is intended to improve South Africa’s international research and innovation competitiveness, while responding to social and economic challenges of the country. It is in this context that the Nedbank Research Chair was awarded.

Prof van Zyl is ideally suited to lead these efforts, with more than 20 years of experience in the fields of data science, big data analytics, stream processing, machine learning, complex adaptive systems, high-performance computing, and computational and artificial intelligence. His experience has been applied extensively in spatial and temporal contexts such as satellite image processing and in-situ sensor signal processing.

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