Government-Universities collaboratingOn 31 October 2012, the Cape Higher Education Consortium (CHEC) hosted a workshop on climate change and the green economy. It was attended by high-level representatives from the four Western Cape Universities – Universities of the Western Cape (where the event took place), Cape Town and Stellenbosch, plus Cape Peninsula University of Technology. It was also attended by senior officials from the Western Cape Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town. The opening talk was by former academic Jim Petrie who is now employed by the Western Cape Provincial Government’s (WCPG) Department of Economic Development. The focus was on how the Western Cape can transition to a low carbon resource-efficient green economy that grows economically, builds the human skills base and reduces poverty. References to moving away from an extractive to a knowledge innovation-driven economy were frequent. All four Universities made presentations, with Mark Swilling presenting on behalf of Stellenbosch University
What was most interesting is how much emphasis was placed by the WCPG on investments in research and innovation, and the importance of partnerships. Very interesting to see how embedded sustainability thinking has become across the various branches of the WCPG and, to some extent, the City of Cape Town (CCT). What was also very interesting is the vast range of research and teaching initiatives related to sustainability across the four Universities. Clearly, UCT excels when it comes to climate change research. UWC has a wide range of relatively small initiatives scattered across many departments and centres. In general, sustainability-oriented solutions are clearly the focus at Stellenbosch University. CPUT has a strong technology solutions focus
The workshop ended up identifying five joint projects that will involve the four Universities, WCPG and the CCT. Some of these are as follows: major iconic urban development projects; capacity for systems thinking; greening campuses and facilities; a ‘muddling through’ process approach for long-term knowledge partnerships.