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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Technology at UWC

5 Interesting UWC Technologies That Make The World A Better Place

Universities are places of teaching and learning. They’re places of molding young minds that will create the future. But they’re also places of building the technologies that will power those futures - technologies like the periodic table (Saint Petersburg University), flu shots (University of Rochester), ultrasound (University of Vienna) and a little thing called Google (Stanford University)...among many, many other things.

And as for the University of the Western Cape...well, here are just five recent game-changing innovations that have come from UWC’s research community:

  1. Exatype™ - HIV Drug Resistance Computation Tool: According to the WHO, 71% of people living with HIV/AIDS reside in Africa - which is why governments try to ensure access to treatment for all. But a growing number of people on ARVs are resistant to particular drug regimens...and many don’t even know it. That’s why UWC spin-off company Hyrax BioSciences developed Exatype, a software solution that enables healthcare workers to determine HIV-positive patients’ responsiveness to ARV drug treatment. Exatype has the potential to contribute towards effective management of HIV/AIDS in Africa – and also holds promise in helping detect drug resistance for other diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and antimicrobial resistance. It also earned SANBI researcher Imogen Wright a prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa runner-up award...good stuff!

  2. Sign Language Translation/Interpreting: UWC researchers are developing mobile applications that could revolutionise the way Deaf and hearing people communicate. The Assistive Technologies (formerly SASL group), led by Mehrdad Ghaziasgar, is working on a system to translate between South African Sign Language and English. This research focuses on recognising sign language in ordinary video by locating the signer in a video, tracking the signer’s hands, and recognising the smaller sub-units of sign language gestures and facial expressions - all using a normal inexpensive webcam. Work has also been done on rendering high quality realistic sign language using 3D avatars. This work will eventually be integrated into a fully-fledged translation system that will allow Deaf and hearing users to communicate using mobile phones.

  3. iBATECH Kraalbos pesticides and cleansers: Most of us think of kraalbos as just another shrub (if we think of it at all), but when the Department of Medical BioScience’s Associate Professor Jeremy Klaasen found out that the khoisan used to use it for everything from skin ailments to inflammation and toothache, he launched a serious investigation - and discovered it could be be used as a biopesticidal adjuvant (boosting the performance of a pesticide). Now it forms part of UWC’s Indigenous Botanical Adjuvant Technology (iBATECH) project, and Prof Klaasen’s company, Kraalbos Bio-Health Products CC, has launched a range of cleansing products to boot.

  4. Acid Mine Drainage - the Fly Ash Solution: Water quality is a serious issue that affects millions worldwide, including right here in South Africa where acid mine drainage can be a significant pollutant. But Prof Leslie Petrik, post-doc Godfrey Madzivire and others at UWC’s Environmental and NanoSciences group have devised a Fly Ash Acid Mine Drainage technology that involves the treatment of mine water with coal fly ash (ash produced from burning powdered coal) using a jet loop reactor in one single, simple procedure, reducing the contaminants to acceptable levels and thereby remediating contaminated water which can then be used for agricultural and industrial purposes.

  5. HySA Systems - Clean hydrogen energy solutions: Increased demand for fossil fuels is contributing to climate change on a global scale, and hydrogen is one of the best alternate fuels available: when hydrogen fuel cells are used, the only waste product is water! At UWC, HySA Systems Centre of Competence and several national and international partners have been responsible for introducing many hydrogen fuel cell technology innovations, including (among others) South Africa’s first hydrogen-powered tricycle and scooter, its first fuel cell component manufacturing (like a first 2.5kW fuel cell backup power system for telecommunication markets), a hydrogen-powered golf cart...and the world’s first hydrogen-powered forklift and refuelling station. And happy news for a South Africa facing energy shortages, HySA is even testing out a generator system at UWC’s Nature Reserve.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Do you want to know more about UWC’s innovations? Or do you have a great idea for a world-changing technology? Have you been working on something truly revolutionary, and you’re wondering how to protect all your hard work (and intellectual property)? Why not contact UWC’s Technology Transfer Office ( or visit their website to find out more?

And stay tuned for more National Science Week Fun!