Water and enviro consultancy wins top science award

Umvoto Africa wins top science award

Founder and MD of Umvoto Africa Rowena Hay, with Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor (left) and Agnes Peter (right) Group Executive, Agency and National Advertising, Independent Newspapers.

Twenty-five years of pioneering scientific work, coupled with successfully growing a start-up business into a highly respected consultancy, have been acknowledged with a prestigious award for Cape Town earth sciences company Umvoto Africa.

At the 18th annual National Science and Technology Forum awards (NSTF-South32), held on 30 June in Gauteng, Umvoto won the category ‘Research leading to innovation through an SMME’. NSTF is a multi-stakeholder non-profit forum in South Africa that promotes science and technology through collaboration.

These national awards recognise, celebrate and reward excellence in science, engineering, technology and innovation in South Africa. The nominations process is open to everyone, including the public. The adjudication is by a representative panel, ensuring that academia, industry and other stakeholders are part of the process.

Umvoto researches and develops sustainable geoscientific and technological solutions to address resource, environmental, social and economic concerns. It consults in integrated water resource management, contamination and remediation studies, education and training, process facilitation and ecological risk management studies.

The awards were presented by Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, who is also the event patron. The winners received state-of-the-art trophies, incorporating titanium and made using industrial 3D laser printing.

In the research and development arena, Umvoto’s processes rely on inventive application of aerial and satellite remote-sensing, geographic information systems and space-geodesy for hydrogeological exploration and mapping.

In addition, Umvoto works with commercial drilling contractors in the design and construction of groundwater monitoring and production wells. Other facets include the design and implementation of flow and test pumping trials, the application of computer-based software for three-dimensional numerical modelling of groundwater flow, and planning for operational monitoring of groundwater well-fields.

“Our focus is on discovering to what extent we can use science in real time to solve problems, how we can adapt our behaviours to live more effectively on this planet, and to what extent we can use science as part of our adaptation tool,” said Hay.

Umvoto was also a finalist in the 2009 NSTF awards, while three municipal groundwater projects (Stanford, Hermanus and Oudtshoorn) were selected for the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 programme of socially transformative projects. In 2012 Umvoto was selected as the best company in Southern Africa for young water industry professionals to develop their skills.

Hay was also a recipient of a Water Research Council Knowledge Tree award last year for empowerment of communities. She was a runner-up in the 2008 Achiever Award for a Woman Scientist in Industry and 2009 Cape entrepreneur winner in the ninth annual Businesswomen’s Association Regional Business Achievers awards.

Since 2005, Hay has been one of four international judges of the United Nations Sasakawa Award for DRR, held in Geneva. This $50 000 biannual award recognizes excellence in innovation, outreach and collaboration to improve the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.

Details of the finalists, including the winners’ work, are available online at http://www.nstf.org.za/whos-who/ .  Also see www.umvoto.com. Additional information sourced from Mail & Guardian NSTF Special Report 2016.

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