College of Science, Engineering & Technology

He's the [ideas] man

Cover star for the night, Prof Lukas Snyman struts his stuff after being crowned as the top IP creator at Unisa 2010-2018 by the DST.

Five new SA patents on innovative technologies in electrical engineering developed by Prof Lukas Snyman and his students over the past five years at Unisa have seen the idea-and-product generator from the Department of Electrical and Mining Engineering and the Nanotechnology and Water Sustainability (NanoWS) research unit at Unisa’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET) acknowledged as the top intellectual property (IP) creator at the university for the period 2010 to 2018 during an award ceremony held by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) on 28 March 2019.

The Unisa innovations involve new technology developments in photovoltaic panel applications, solar water heating systems, thermal energy to electricity conversion, storage of thermal energy, electronic sensing and automation, and micro-photonic communication systems in silicon-integrated circuitry.

Contribution to an innovation agenda

The Intellectual Property Creators’ Incentive award, handed over by the Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, was accompanied by a grant of R600 000 to further Snyman’s technology transfer and commercialisation actions.

He is one of 25 top IP creators at South African universities rewarded for their contribution to an innovation agenda intended to address the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, and government outcomes like vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities, and food security for all, or an efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network. This initiative from the minister and DST aims to stimulate innovation and technology transfer to industry and communities to create new competitive job opportunities in the country.

Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane (Minister: Science and Technology) and Dr Phil Mjwara (Director-General: DST) congratulate Prof Lukas Snyman at the inaugural National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) Intellectual Property Creators’ Awards.

The award and grant will enable Snyman to accommodate further BEng Tech, MEng, and PhD students in electrical engineering and water-related research at Unisa and pay for all equipment, sundries, and operational expenses. The projects will be of a very applied nature and will involve development of various prototypes that are nearly ready for commercialisation in an idea-and-product incubation environment. It is also intended to equip students with soft skills in business management, marketing, and administration in order to enable them to establish their own small businesses and start-up companies once they graduate. These strategies adhere to the award and grant objectives as set out by the minister and DST.

Changing SA one idea at a time

Snyman is involved with a community outreach project in the Eastern Cape, near the area where he grew up as a young boy. He is currently involved with the Science Centre in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape as an advisor. One new small, medium and micro-sized enterprise (SMME) on innovative electronic products is currently being developed. Some of the grant money may be allocated to this.

Over a period of about 25 years, Snyman has published approximately 100 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, mostly international. He has attended more than 50 international conferences in his career. Of outstanding mention is that he has generated, in total, 10 SA patents, six USA patents, four European patents, two Chinese patents and one Korean patent in this period. He has authored two chapters in scholarly books. Three SMMEs have emanated from his work in South Africa, of which one is currently quite profitable.

Patent power! Unisa is serious about solar energy

An innovative thermal energy to electricity convertor, a first prototype development seen here in action and deployed to light up a string of white LED lamps, is presumably the first ever in South Africa. A gas stove below the convertor provides the supply of thermal energy. The product and technology is currently extensively patented by Unisa.

* Submitted by Thembeka Ntuli-Mpapama, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Science, Engineering, and Technology

Publish date: 2019/04/03