Change the world


In May 2023, Nelson Mandela University’s internationally renowned engineering innovation hub, eNtsa, turns 21. Its director, Professor Danie Hattingh, had the vision to launch it and to continuously reimagine it.

“Twenty-one years ago there were just four us, and the big drive at that stage was high-end engineering support for the automotive industry to improve the quality of their products and export readiness,” says Prof Hattingh, who also had a research programme in solid state welding at the time.

Today, eNtsa has a team of 70, including engineers, scientists, physicists, office professionals, research associates and students, all busy with local and international research to support the broader manufacturing sector and advance technologies into the future, with a focus on the automotive, power generation and petrochemical industries.

Current research focuses on welding, structural integrity and life extension methodologies for petrochemical and coal-fired power plants.

The institute has the most advanced facility to test and evaluate the creep, or deformation, properties of aged materials extracted from petrochemical and power plants.

This identifies critical areas to inform engineering decision makers and assists with prioritising areas in need of replacement, as well as the development of methodologies for safe extension of component life.

Prof Hatting says: “Our work in this space has put us at the international forefront, as certain European countries are forced to start up old coal-fired power plants for the medium term, given the gas situation with Russia.” They have industry and technology partners in Germany, Finland and the UK. South African partners include Sasol and Eskom.

“In South Africa and internationally many of the power plants are close to or beyond their intended original design life,” says Prof Hattingh. “It is expensive to build a new coal-fired power plant, it takes time, and they are bad for the environment. If we can safely extend the life of power plants while developing and upscaling environmentally friendly solutions, it is a huge win.”

Another significant eNtsa research area is its uYilo eMobility Technology Programme. With the advent of electromobility – or e-mobility – considerable research is being conducted on batteries and battery technologies, as renewable energy storage is a major issue worldwide.

uYilo is also preparing South Africa for e-mobility and assisting government in aligning efforts towards the shift. Postdoctoral researcher, Dr Brandon Davoren, joined eNtsa in 2022 to further its battery research initiative.

Marine robotics is also a focus area, helping scientists to gather data more efficiently and to obtain novel data from marine environments they haven’t been able to access before.

The data-gathering technology goes hand in hand with the development of ocean gliders and marine satellite communication capability, all part of the research focus at Mandela University.

Ocean Glider team 2021

As part of eNtsa’s constant reimagination process, in 2020 it embarked on a five-year revitalisation programme to increase its international impact. “We are positioning ourselves as a world-class, commercially viable, engineering innovation and research organisation with a global footprint. We are certainly heading in the right direction to present ourselves as such,” says Prof Hattingh.

“We are intensifying our international network with industries and universities in Germany, the UK and Australia, in order to grow the international business. We are also embracing digitalisation in everything we do, including creating a highly visible profile on social and other media platforms.”

The five-year programme is aimed at increasing eNtsa’s revenue by 30% per year through internationally funded research and development contracts, which bring in a euro/dollar-based income. eNtsa has two income steams: self-generated funding and funding from government, mainly via  the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).

“In addition to these funding streams,” says Prof Hattingh, “we are in the process of establishing a commercial arm with the University to provide new services and to spin off innovations into private companies. A lot of the work we are currently doing is suitable for this.”

eNtsa Small Punch Creep Test Facility

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057