UJ and Nanjing Tech University to enter SA high-tech medical device manufacturing

In a win for South African manufacturing and expertise, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) is partnering with top Chinese institution, Nanjing Tech University (NanjingTech), to co-manufacture high-technology biosensors for medical applications. The first project in the partnership will combine biosensors manufactured at NanjingTech with physical sensing components manufactured at UJ, in medical applications for dread diseases.

While setting up its manufacturing and assembly space, UJ will be acquiring high-tech manufacturing equipment rare in South Africa, says Prof Tien-Chien Jen. The equipment will be capable of depositing nano-layers of metals onto a variety of substrates, including metals and polymers.

Prof Jen is from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at UJ. He is the co-director of the NanjingTech-UJ partnership. At the moment, funding applications for the equipment are being processed, he says.

The NanjingTech biosensor research team for the NanjingTech-UJ partnership is led by Prof Lin Li, a world-leading researcher. He is a member of the Key Laboratory of Flexible Electronics (KLOFE), which is part of the Institute of Advanced Materials (IAM). Prof Li is the assistant head of department at IAM. Both KLOFE and IAM’s research publications are tracked by the Nature research journal.

KLOFE and IAM are part of the Jiangsu National Synergetic Innovation Center for Advanced Materials (SICAM) at NanjingTech. In 2016, NanjingTech co-hosted a conference with Nature. The university is rated in the top 1000 globally and in the top 250 in BRICS and emerging economies 2017 by the Times Higher Education world university rankings.

UJ’s physical sensor manufacturing team is led by globally-recognised researcher, Prof Tien-Chien Jen, who joined the University in 2016. Prof Jen’s research focuses on nano-technology (nanomaterials processing and nanomanufacturing), thermal science, advanced and sustainable manufacturing and materials processing, as well as renewable energy-related research.

Says Prof Jen: “By and large, South Africa does not realise the full economic potential of its vast mineral resources. The majority of the country’s mined products are exported at relatively low prices in bulk form, and then imported again as expensive products and equipment. Examples are high-grade metals and sophisticated industrial components and equipment.

“It is time to up the ante in South African and African manufacturing. We need to be producing high-technology goods from the minerals mined here and selling these back to the countries we usually import from,” he says.

Continuing to export raw materials and import the value-added goods is not sustainable over the long term, he adds, and loses a precious opportunity to create far more businesses and jobs in South Africa.

The formal agreement between NanjingTech and UJ was signed on 21 December 2016 at NanjingTech’s College of Electrical Engineering and Control Science in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province, in eastern China. Prof Gong Jianming, NanjingTech Vice-President and Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, UJ Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation represented the two institutions at the event.

Nanjing is the manufacturing hub for electronics, telecommunication equipment, textiles, petro-chemicals, the metallurgical industry and machinery building in Jiangsu Province, which is one of the most densely populated in China.

The NanjingTech-UJ Memorandum of Understanding establishes the Joint Research Centre on Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing (CSMM) between the Institute of Advanced Materials (IAM) at NanjingTech; and the School of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (SOMIE), Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) at UJ.

The agreement was facilitated by Dr David Monyae, Co-Director of the UJ Confucius Institute.

See the NanjingTech English language article mentioning the research centre here.

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