The NSTF Awards is the flagship project of the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF), in partnership with South32.

The NSTF Awards honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to science, engineering and technology (SET) and innovation. The awards encourage and reward excellence in:

  • Scientific research
  • Management of SET and Innovation
  • Engineering research capacity development
  • Water solutions
  • Data for research
  • Innovations
  • Science communication
  • NGO Award

The NSTF Awards dating from 1998, have since 2015 been organised in partnership with South32 (a resources company which was established after the demerger of BHP Billiton).

Largest SET and innovation awards in South Africa: The NSTF Awards have grown to be the largest and most prestigious public SET and innovation awards in South Africa. The previous winners are widely recognised as worthy recipients.

Endorsed by the DST( now DSI) : The NSTF Awards are endorsed by and have been supported since the inception of the awards by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) now re-named the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) as of 2020. The Honourable the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology,  previously Minister of Science and Technology , is the official patron of the NSTF Awards.

These awards are unique in South Africa: There are a number of reasons that the awards are special.

  • The NSTF Awards are the only SET awards that are open, where the Call for Nominations includes the public.
  • The process and awards event are collaborative.
  • The awards recognise a variety of outstanding contributions by individuals, organisations and teams. These include all practicing scientists, and other professionals across the system of innovation (NSI). Categories follow the subject areas listed above and are set out in detail on the categories page.
  • Youth outreach is an integral part of the awards project. Top performing learners in mathematics and science in Grade 12 are recognised every year through the Brilliants Programme. There is also a year-long series of interactions with students and learners by Award Winners across the country. This is called the NSTF Share ‘n Dare Programme.

Nominations and adjudication process

Nominations are registered online by the first deadline (usually in December). Full nomination documents have to be submitted by the second deadline (usually in March).

An adjudication panel of independent judges is assembled annually. It represents all sectors of the NSTF membership and, in the case of the sponsored categories, representatives of these sponsors. The adjudication panel reviews the nominations, identifies those that are eligible, shortlists the finalists and makes the final selection of winners. A panel of experts is also appointed by the NSTF Executive Committee. These experts assist the adjudication panel by reviewing and providing validation of the selections.

The NSTF Awards Trophy

Definitions of science, engineering, technology and innovation

Science Refers to the systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe. This is defined, in the broadest sense, to encompass both the natural and human sciences.
Engineering Considered as the practical application of this knowledge, especially in industry and commerce but also in human scientific fields.
Technology Seen as the means by which science is converted into engineering and other applications, disciplines and undertakings.
Innovation Means the application, in practice, of creative new ideas. It includes inventions, discoveries and the processes by which new products and services enter the market and the creation of new businesses.

The generic value chain which links these elements together is expressed in the definition of our National System of Innovation (NSI). The value chain spans the stages of inputs, processes, outputs, impacts and outcomes. It specifically includes:

  • Research, development and creative work undertaken on a systematic basis. This is in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of people, culture and society and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.
  • Technology transfer activities associated with research, experimental development and contributing to the dissemination and application of scientific and technical knowledge
  • Education and training

The value of the NSTF Awards for the nominees

The NSTF Awards have long been coveted in South Africa as the ultimate public recognition of achievement and success in the SET and innovation sectors.

  • Winners receive a prestigious, custom-made trophy at the annual NSTF Awards gala dinner which is held in Gauteng in June/July of each year. This was moved to an online event in 2020 and a hybrid event is being considered for 2021.
  • Finalists are featured in the Who’s Who of SET and Innovation in South Africa, an annual publication.
  • Award winners are profiled as ambassadors of SET to the youth at science centres and universities across South Africa through the Share ‘n Dare Programme, where the winners share their experiences with the youth and ‘dare’ them to take up SET studies and careers.
  • High-profile recognition is given and sought for winners and finalists on various media platforms, including the media sponsors, Business Report and the Mail & Guardian.

Purpose of the NSTF Awards

The NSTF Awards honour and celebrate outstanding contributions to SET and innovation in South Africa. This is done so that:

  • Excellence is promoted among SET practitioners in research, development and innovation
  • Recognition is given to excellent contributions to SET and innovation, including those contributions which make research possible and build capacity in the SET system
  • Young people are encouraged to undertake studies and careers in SET
  • The communication of science and the sharing of knowledge are promoted

Ultimately the purpose of the NSTF Awards is to contribute to achieving sustainable socio-economic growth for South Africa and to improving the quality of people’s lives.

Objectives of the NSTF Awards

  • To celebrate, acknowledge and promote excellence in the South African research and development (R&D), engineering and other technical communities
  • Individuals, organisations and teams, cutting across sectors, levels, gender and race are recognised
  • To recognise work that is professional, innovative, forward-looking and relevant to both South Africa and the rest of the world
  • To encourage the involvement and participation of SET organisations in research and innovation while raising awareness among the general public about local research and innovation and its relevance
  • To address government human resources targets by:
    • involving business
    • drawing attention to scarce skills
    • profiling role models, and
    • facilitating and recognising knowledge transfer to learners and students, encouraging them to pursue careers in SET