The highly-experienced Francois Denner will be heading up the Biocomposites Centre of Competence. He has been appointed as its coordinator from 1 February 2012.
The next phase of the Biocomposites Centre of Competence (CoC) will be driven by a new coordinator. The highly-experienced Francois Denner has been appointed in this role from 1 February 2012.
The Biocomposites CoC is an initiative by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), through its Advanced Manufacturing Technology directorate, to unlock the potential of the biocomposites industry in South Africa. It is estimated that the potential size of this industry (if fully developed) is as much as R300 to R350 million per annum for rural fibre production, and R2 to R2.5 billion per annum for final (manufactured) products.
Although essentially consisting of a network of organisations that contribute towards the Biocomposites CoC, the Hub of the Centre will be located at the CSIR. An initial amount of funding of R2 m, granted by the DST in August 2011, allowed for the activities of the CoC to commence including two national workshops; recruitment of a coordinator; a fibre value chain analysis; a feasibility study on the first natural fibre-based composite product; and continuation of a number of existing consortium-based projects on biocomposites. The next phase of the initiative will focus on further operationalisation, including fund-raising; development of a framework for collaborative projects in the five product technology platforms; continuation of existing projects; and initiation of a small number of new projects.
Former coordinator Dr Sean Moolman, currently CSIR Group Manager: Licensing and Ventures, says that Denner has extensive experience in managing large, complex, multidisciplinary projects and initiatives through his work at UNIDO, the National Aerospace Centre of Excellence, the dti, the National Metrology Laboratory and the CSIR.
His 20-year career started at the CSIR as an electronics engineering graduate. He became a member of the core team responsible for development of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy for South Africa (AMTS) developed in close collaboration with the DST and with the National Advisory Council on Innovation (NACI), as well as responsible for the project management of a Technology Transfer Centre initiative in collaboration with the dti.
During this time, the South African government embarked on the path to develop an industrial policy and action plan for the country and Denner joined the dti as Chief Director for Advanced Manufacturing. He later assumed responsibility as Director of the National Aerospace Centre of Excellence (NACoE) based at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).
Denner recently returned to South Africa after having successfully concluded a three-year assignment as Chief Technical Advisor to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) responsible for project management and implementation of international donor-funded projects in Mozambique.
“The DST recently committed to extend the initial grant for the Biocomposites CoC until 2014. This gives testimony to the commitment by the South African government to provide the platforms necessary to facilitate the progression of traditional manufacturing industries to the industries of the future; importantly green industries,” says Denner.
He continues by saying that a future biocomposites industry has all the ingredients to significantly contribute to the New Economic Growth Path in terms of agricultural value chain, the green economy, manufacturing and job creation across these areas. The CoC is a catalytic intervention to overcome traditional barriers to innovation through fostering collaboration between academia, science councils and industry.
“It is very important that projects embarked on by the CoC are well focused on those product technologies where South Africa has a competitive advantage, but at the same time the success of a future biocomposites industry requires that competencies have to be developed across the entire value chain; from the production of natural fibres and other raw materials through to the final product manufacture. Initial projects will be aligned with the demand for biocomposite products that exist in the construction, packaging, automotive and aerospace industries,” concludes Denner.