Rail parastatal Transnet on Monday launched its research centre which it says will contribute to job creation and the expansion of the country’s knowledge economy.

The Matlafatšo Centre is a hub dedicated to increasing the competitiveness, capacity and capability of Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) through skills transfer and access to research and development facilities.

Speaking at the launch Transnet Group Chief Executive Siyabonga Gama said the initiative also aims to empower black-owned and black-managed enterprises by providing financial support.

To date, R19.4 million has been spent on the centre, which will use innovation and research to promote high value enterprise development. Transnet will spend about R62 million on the centre over a five-year period.

“We know that a lot of people face difficulties and challenges when they are trying to find jobs but here we are… (creating) entrepreneurs who can create jobs, people who can grow and contribute the economy, which is important,” Gama said.

New ideas, incubations and inventions

Transnet is hoping that its partnership with The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) will lead to new ideas, incubations and inventions, which can be commercialised.

“The model we are unveiling today is one that creates a fulcrum for research and innovation initiatives. Once it has matured, Transnet will roll it out nationally in a structured and well-coordinated fashion to reach all the communities of our country,” Gama said.

Wits Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Crouch said the university has positioned itself as a research intensive institution because it believes that through research and innovation, it will drive technology and the future.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said she was excited about the potential of the Transnet Matlafatšo Centre.

“Increasing the competitiveness and capacities of black-owned and managed SMMEs to take their place in the Transnet supply chain – and those of other large companies – is exactly what is needed to spread the wealth these companies generate and to change peoples’ lives,” Minister Brown said.