Natural Sciences Research Division (NSRD)
The purpose of this Division is to coordinate natural sciences related research as well as emerging technologies in line with the national development priorities, and to contribute to the achievement of the objectives in Namibia’s Vision 2030, National Development Plans, and other regional and international development frameworks. NSRD further aims to facilitate the development and management of national research facilities to support the implementation of the National Programme on Research, Science, Technology, and Innovation (NPRSTI). Additionally, the Division is responsible to coordinate and manage agreements with relevant Offices, Ministries and Agencies (O/M/A/s), Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), Private Sector, other Science Granting Councils (SGCs) and international partners.
NSR Activities includes but not limited to:
National Research, Science, Technology and Innovation Infrastructure (RSTII)
The main objective under this initiative is conducting of RSTI infrastructure survey and formulation of the National Strategy for RSTI Infrastructure. Once developed, the envisaged National Strategy for RSTI Infrastructure will be the basis for a long-term plan that aims to establish Research, Science, Technology, and Innovation Infrastructures in Namibia as a foundation for excellent research.
RSTII activities entail the following:
National RSTII infrastructure needs analysis/survey
The mapping of the Research, Science, Technology, and Innovation Infrastructure in Namibia is a nationwide initiative conducted through a survey by the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology (NCRST). The survey is aimed at mapping the existing RSTII facilities and take stock of existing research and development facilities in Namibia and in the same vein geared to identify existing STI infrastructure gaps. The survey outcomes will contribute towards the development of the National STI Infrastructure Strategy.
National RSTI Infrastructure Strategy
This impending National STI Infrastructure Strategy aims to complement the National Programme on Research, Science, Technology, and Innovation (NPRSTI) in realizing the national research agenda by enhancing equitable access to, and utilization of national research infrastructure / facilities. The development of a National RSTI Strategy is informed by the outcome of the National RSTI Infrastructure needs analysis/survey and stakeholder consultations.
Space Science and Technology (SST)
Space Science and Technologies have been identified as a research priority area in the National Programme on Research Science, Technology, and Innovation. As part of implementation, the NCRST in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher, Education, Technology, and Innovation (MHETI), embarked on the process of developing a National Space Science Policy (NSSTP) as well as the Space Science and Technology Strategy in which all space related activities are streamlined inclusively. The NSSTP was launched on 5 June 2021.
SST activities involve the following:
National Space Science Policy
Under this guiding framework, Namibia strives to be a global player in space science and technologies and to utilize the products and services derived thereof, for the enhancement of the country’s socio-economic development. This policy will enhance national, regional, and international collaborations in space science research, technologies, and applications; and will promote national capacity building in various fields within the space science arena.
Space Science and Technology Strategy
The strategy will serve as an implementation mechanism of the policy, which contains strategic initiatives that fast-track the country’s aspirations to develop local critical mass of trained space scientists, engineers and technicians who will contribute actively to the development of a sustainable Nation’s Space Program.
As part of the ongoing space science related activities in the country, the NCRST as the nexus and coordinating agency is also involved in the following programmes and projects:
China Manned Space Engineering Programme
Namibia and China have renewed the agreement on China Manned Space Engineering Program that was initially signed in 2000. The renewed agreement will facilitate the continuation of operations at the satellite Tracking and Command Station in Swakopmund. As per the agreement, training will be availed to Namibians within the field of space science and technology. The NCRST in consultation with the Ministry of Higher Education, Technology, and Innovation (MHETI) will continue to facilitate programs and initiatives emanating from this agreement.
High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.)
The High Energy Stereoscopic System is an observatory for studying Very High Energy (VHE) gamma-ray astrophysics. The instrument allows scientists to explore gamma-ray sources with intensities at a level of a few thousandths of the flux of the Crab nebula (the brightest steady source of gamma rays in the sky). The H.E.S.S observatory is located near the Gamsberg Mountains on the outskirts of Windhoek, an area known for its excellent optical quality. H.E.S.S is seen in the world as a most unique astronomy and astrophysics experiment which has brought about a multitude of new discoveries in the field. The H.E.S.S telescopes rank among the first ten best telescopes among all types of telescopes in the world.
Implementation of H.E.S.S agreement is guided by conditions as set out in the H.E.S.S Continuation Agreement signed between the Parties, of which the NCRST and University of Namibia (UNAM) in consultation with the Ministry of Higher Education and Technology and Innovation represent Namibia in the Steering Committee. Further, NCRST in consultation with the MEHTI facilitates the process of issuance of Visas, Work Permits, Tax and Custom duties with the relevant institutions to ensure smooth operation of H.E.S.S activities.
Square Kilometre Array (SKA), African Very Long Baseline Interferometry (AVN) and other astronomy initiatives
The SKA project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area throughout the entire continent. Namibia is a partner country in hosting the SKA due to its clear skies and conducive environment for astronomy. The scale of the SKA represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development towards building and delivering a radio telescope and will deliver a correspondingly transformational increase in science capability when operational.
Equally, the AVN (African VLBI Network) is a network of VLBI-capable radio telescopes on the African continent, that will strengthen the science which the international VLBI community can do. The AVN will help to develop the skills, regulations and institutional capacity needed in SKA partner countries to optimise African participation in the SKA and enable participation in SKA pathfinder technology development and science. The AVN programme is envisaged to transfer skills and knowledge in African partner countries to build, maintain, operate, and use radio telescopes. The programme is further expected to bring new science opportunities to Africa on a relatively short time scale and develop radio astronomy science communities in the SKA partner countries.
The implementation of SKA/AVN project is as per the Radio Astronomy Agreement signed between the SKA African Partner Countries and approved SKA/AVN Strategy. Through this project, Namibia received equipment in the form of High-Performance Computing (HPC) as well as customised computers through the Development in Africa through Radio Astronomy (DARA) initiative. These facilities are housed at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and University of Namibia (UNAM) and are being utilised for research and capacity building in High Performance Computing. Bursaries and short course training have been provided to Namibian students and administrators through this project. The NCRST, in consultation with MHETI facilitates the process of issuance of Visas, Work Permits, Tax and Custom duties with the relevant institutions to ensure smooth operation.
Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS)
IKS is another thematic area that has been identified as one of the research priority areas in the National Programme on Research Science, Technology, and Innovation. IKS has attracted the attention of many in both the developed and developing countries. This has been evident in national policies and legislative frameworks all over the world as many policy makers call for the identification, documentation, and protection of IKS.
IKS initiatives include but not limited to:
Development of National Indigenous Knowledge System
As part of implementation, the NCRST in consultation with MHETI embarked on the process of developing a National IKS Policy, geared to serve as an enabling framework that stimulates and strengthens the contribution of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) to social and economic development in Namibia. NCRST is in the process of developing the Namibian IKS policy with the technical support from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) of South Africa, through bilateral relations. The development of the IKS policy will be a concerted effort from stakeholder consultations at all levels.
Documentation of Indigenous Knowledge
The purpose of this project is to document IKS and its applications across the fourteen regions of Namibia. This project is funded by the NCRST, whilst the technical execution is carried out by the two national universities, namely University of Namibia (UNAM) and Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST).
Establishment of National IKS database
This project is executed by NCRST in collaboration with University of Namibia and Namibia University of Science and Technology, and it is envisioned that the database will be guided by appropriate access guideline model and a physical database of documented IKS.
Given the magnitude of efforts, technical requirements as well as the diverse mandate in advancing natural sciences research nationally, the NCRST under this division forged strategic co-operation agreements through facilitating the development and reviewing of bilateral, multilateral as well as Agency to Agency Cooperation Agreements, at national, regional, and international level. Some of the functional strategic partnerships to date are abridged as follows:
Memorandum of Understanding between NCRST and Environmental Investment Fund (EIF)
The purpose of the MoU is to establish a strategic partnership between the EIF and the NCRST with the aim of mutual co-operation through coordinated STI related projects and programmes, with much emphasis on environmental research, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and sustainable land management.
Memorandum of Understanding between NCRST and Fundo Nacional de Investigação (FNI) of Mozambique
The objective of this MoU is to promote cooperation in the fields of Science, Technology, and Innovation between NCRST and FNI based on mutual benefits between the parties. The agreement makes provision for cooperation in the following priorities areas, while taking consideration of each country needs and capabilities: Agriculture, Biotechnology, Energy, Tourism, Infrastructure, Information and Communication Technologies, Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Ethnobotany, Environmental and Climate Change, Social and Humanities Sciences, Health, Education and Mineral Resources.
This MoU led to the funding of the project in agroprocessing between Namibia and Mozambique, which is currently on its second phase, an upscaling phase.
H.E.S.S Continuation Agreement
This agreement sets the conditions under which the Parties to H.E.S.S project will collaborate in the H.E.S.S. Continuation in order to operate and scientifically exploit H.E.S.S. Phase II from October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2022. The NCRST and the University of Namibia are Parties to the Agreement.
Section 19 of the Research, Science and Technology Act (Act no 23 of 2004), mandates the Commission to establish one or more councils in the research, science, and technology sector, from time to time in the prescribed manner and after consultation with the Minister. The Councils shall perform such functions under the supervision of the Commission as prescribed and as may be assigned to it by the Commission. The establishment of the following councils is currently being finalized.
National Indigenous Knowledge Systems Council (NIKSC)
The NIKSC performs its functions as per Section 19 (1) of the Research, Science and Technology Act, 2004 (Act 23 of 2004). The NIKSC serves as an advisory body to the NCRST to facilitate the development and implementation of a national agenda on Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) in all sectors. The Council further provides strategic direction and guidance on policy issues and other matters related to IKS, e.g., ethics in IKS research.
The Council in its advisory capacity may also assist to perform explicit functions such as:
- Enhance, recognise, develop, and promote the value and the role of indigenous knowledge and technology for development,
- Facilitate the integration of IKS into the education curriculum,
- Facilitate and advise on the process of collecting and sharing of information on IKS practices in Namibia,
- Advise on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues pertaining to IKS, storing (database) and protecting data and information, and
- To encourage regional and international co-operation in IKS and related matters.
The following sectors and institutions/ministries are or will be represented on the Council:
- Law/ Legal
- Natural Sciences
- Social Sciences
- Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) related matters and
- Ministry of Trade and Industry on Intellectual Property (IP) related issues.
National Space Science Council (NSSC)
The NSSC performs its functions as per Section 19 (1) of the Research, Science and Technology Act, 2004 (Act 23 of 2004. The NSSC serves as an advisory body to the NCRST to safeguard the development and implementation of a national agenda on space science and technologies in all sectors. The NSSC further provide strategic direction and guidance on policy issues pertaining to space science and technology.
The Council in its advisory capacity may also assist to perform explicit functions such as:
- To enhance, recognize, develop, and promote the value and appreciate the role of space science and technology for national development,
- To assist in developing guidelines for Namibia’s space exploration activities and the use of space technologies and its applications,
- To advise on relevant mechanisms for national human capacity development in space science and space technologies in Namibia,
- To promote and facilitate the integration of space science into the education curriculum, and
- To encourage regional and international co-operation in space science and astronomic related matters.
The following sectors are and/or institutions will be represented on the Council:
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Defence and National Security
- Environmental Sciences and Geographical Information System (GIS)
- Information and Communication Technology and
More Councils could be established in priority areas as identified in the National Programme on RSTI.