SAP Meraka UTD appoints generalist as principal researcher

JohannesburgThe SAP Meraka Unit for Technology Development (UTD) has appointed Professor Lucas Venter as its principal researcher from 1 March 2009.

“Professor Venter will join Professor Jan Eloff, our newly appointed director of research, in providing direction for the SAP Meraka UTD’s research projects – with specific responsibility for ensuring the UTD fufils its mandate of developing advanced human capital and of establishing European research collaboration,” says Danie Kok, director of the SAP Research CEC in Pretoria.

Founded in 2007, the SAP Meraka UTD is a joint initiative between the CSIR’s Meraka Institute and the SAP Research CEC in Pretoria – supported by the Department of Science and Technology.

The Meraka Institute’s major objective is to promote national economic and social development through human capital development and needs-based research and innovation in the ICT sector.

The SAP Research CEC in Pretoria is the only one of global business software giant, SAP AG’s, research centres to be established in Africa – and is focused on contributing to the development of SAP products that are relevant to emerging economies.

The objective of the SAP Meraka UTD is to find ways in which ICT can be applied to foster growth and development among very small enterprises.

“As a consequence, our research has to be multi-disciplinary in nature because it must understand – and influence – the social and cultural impacts technology has on communities and economies,” Professor Jan Eloff says.

“Also, the SAP Meraka UTD focuses on technology within the context of emerging economies. We intend to be a centre of excellence in technology research in the BRICS (Brazilian, Russian, Indian, Chinese, and South African) economies, as all the indications are that those countries will soon drive the global economy – fuelled by their small and medium-sized businesses.”

“To become a centre of excellence, we need to develop a critical mass of world class researchers – drawn, in our case, from previously disadvantaged communities,” says Johan Eksteen, Meraka’s Technology Manager and Co-Manager of the SAP Meraka UTD.

Professor Venter says that what attracted him to the SAP Meraka UTD is the opportunity to focus his attention on advanced human capital development and research.

“SAP Meraka UTD already supports a significant number of PhD and Masters Degree students from various backgrounds. Students are enrolled at seven different universities. And I have the rare opportunity to be able to focus on support of senior students, mainly from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as research and research leadership at this very advanced level,” says Venter.

Venter, who lectured in mathematics, applied mathematics, and computer science at the universities of Potchefstroom, Pretoria and Texas, says capacity building has been the focus of his career. “I’m not a deep subject specialist. My expertise lies in being a generalist and, therefore, being able to assess and add value to the big picture.”

“That will stand me in good stead in terms of supporting students and collaborating with students’ supervisors at the different universities. I am committed to share my experience and expertise to grow the numbers of PhD and Master Degree students in SA. I’ll be able to work in tandem with the supervisors, who will focus on deepening student knowledge of specific subjects while I guide the students through directed research projects that are aligned with their masters and doctoral studies. I will also help them present their material. Writing a thesis is an enormous task in and of itself, and it is a learned skill.”

Venter will also bring his generalist approach to bear on the SAP Meraka UTD’s steady development of a network of international research resources and collaboratively managed projects.

“It’s always important to go from the general to the particular. You have to decide what your destination is before you book your flight!”

For more information, visit http://www.sap.com.

(*) SAP defines business software as comprising enterprise resource planning and related applications.

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