NUST sets up factories

PLASTIC container making, honey and fruit processing factories have been established at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) as the institution angles to play a critical role in Bulawayo’s re-industrialisation agenda. Nust is leading the establishment of Bulawayo Technology Centre which is a tripartite arrangement which involves Government and the Bulawayo Polytechnic College. The new factories are part of Zimbabwe and India partnership. The Asian country sourced the machines on behalf of Zimbabwe.

Government institutions have taken a lead in pulling in the same direction to achieve the Second’s Republic’s vision of empowering every citizen through deliberately partaking in practical activities that solve society’s problems, under the industrialisation thrust. The projects at the Bulawayo Technology Centre were supposed to start running in 2020 but the outbreak of Covid-19 stalled the mounting of the plant. A Chronicle news crew yesterday toured the facility and observed that most of the new equipment had been installed.

Indian technicians are also expected in the country to complete the installation of the plant. The news crew was taken through the honey processing, plastic container manufacturing and fruit jam production processes and was shown some of the plastic products that are made at the factory. The university is able to produce various plastic containers of up to 15 litres. Honey processing is being done on a trial basis awaiting certification by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe. Nust’s Pro-Vice Chancellor, Innovation and Business Development Dr William Goriwondo said the establishment of the Bulawayo Technology Centre is expected to benefit industry as well. “The equipment is coming through as a partnership between Zimbabwe and the Indian government. We call it the Indo-Zim partnership which has brought machines here. We are establishing the Bulawayo Technology Centre where we have various equipment that is going to be used to make various products with Nust housing this equipment,” said Dr Goriwondo.

“We are also working with the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation and Technology Development as our parent ministry and Bulawayo Polytechnic is involved as well. In terms of installation of the equipment we have done most of the equipment and final touches are done and we are working with engineers and technicians from India.” He said local technicians will be trained to operate the machinery by their Indian counterparts as part of skills transfer. Technicians from the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development have been deployed on site. Dr Goriwondo said Indian engineers are expected to teach Nust academics how to fix the machines.

He said the plant is expected to be commissioned before the end of the year. “The installation is just starting. The machines have been here through pre-Covid-19 era but could not be installed because the engineers could not come. But after the lifting of the ban on travel we are finalising the installation. At the moment we are just finalising the set up for commissioning and we are saying by the end of this quarter we should be having the machines running,” said Dr Goriwondo. He could not quantify the cost of the machinery saying it was a donation from the Indian government. Dr Goriwondo said the products that are going to be manufactured on site will support local industries. He said universities will also produce commercial products in response to what the market requires. “We are going to be doing honey processing and honey products and also fruit jam processing. We also have a plastic moulding injection, moulding and blow moulding equipment to make plastic bottles,” said Dr Goriwondo. He said Nust expects to be working with Bulawayo industries in fully utilising the new equipment to improve the quality of local goods while also import substituting. Dr Goriwondo said the new equipment will also benefit Nust students as they take practical courses and prepare for industry. He said setting up the manufacturing plant at the university will allow Nust to leverage on research to improve quality of products and respond to changes that may emerge in the industry.

We are getting our honey from out there in the field. There are people who produce, we are currently working towards establishing relationships with them. We actually train them on the quality of the honey so that when we get the honey it’s clean so that when we bring it here and process it, there will be no contamination,” said Dr Sibanda. He said Bulawayo has suffered much de-industrialisation and it was encouraging that the university is now part of the transformation process. In the past, industry players raised concerns that universities were not responding to challenges in the business sector. But following the adoption of Education 5.0 universities and colleges have come to the party as far as responding to national problems is concerned. Universities played a huge role during the Covid-19 pandemic as they produced sanitizers leading to import substitution. “If you look at the city as it is now there was a lot of de-industrialisation as companies relocated to other places. So, once we begin to run this place fully as the Bulawayo Technology Centre as Nust this is the technology aspect that we are bringing to the city not only for our students but communities around us as well,” said Dr Sibanda.

“So, we will empower them through the technology we have as a city. We are answering the calls to re-industrialise Bulawayo through providing the platform we have for the community to see how we can turn around our city and address the problems that it is facing and make it a vibrant and competitive city.” Nust director for communication and marketing Mr Thabani Mpofu said communities in Nkayi and Lupane who are in the bee keeping business were already a source market for the university. “Our honey is coming from the communities and that honey is not processed for commercial purposes. “In other words, we will actually be creating business and income generation for the people in the communities as we expect to be buying the honey from them and bringing it for processing. Those that have their honey in bulk and they need assistance, training is done and packaging is also done here,” said Mr Mpofu

“According to our research, we envisage seeing new products that our researchers, academics and students will come up with around honey processing. “We have the machinery; we have the laboratories to do all the experiment and so forth. Even those in the industry who have ideas and want to do value addition around honey they can approach us and we can work with them and add value to our local products,” said Mr Mpofu. – @nqotshili.

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