C13. Commission on Physics for Development (1981)

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3rd International Conference on Physics & Industrial Development (COPID)
Durban, South Africa
September 4 - 7, 2000

A collaborative effort

21 countries (16 of them African) were represented at COPID 2000, a biennial conference sponsored by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and co-hosted by the technikons and universities of Kwa-Zulu Natal. Prof Mike Alport (Applied Physics Group, UND) and Prof Edmund Zingu (Mangosutho Technikon, Chair IUPAP Commission responsible for COPID) headed up the Local Organising Committee who consider it a small triumph that sponsorship was secured for twenty delegates from developing countries. However, 20 delegates from seven additional countries were not present through lack of funding. Invited speakers were from Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, The Netherlands, and the USA.

Strategies to Bridge the Gap: tension captured in position paper

The 29 papers and 9 posters included some exciting presentations on physics applications in industry and renewable energy. Papers reflected "the gap" as a reality in both the lack of rapport between industry and academic physics departments and the conservative approach adopted in the structure and content of their syllabuses. As hoped, papers also presented innovative strategies to bridge these gaps.

One such strategy is to become an 'informed physicist' in society. As professional physicists, we need more information about ourselves, our teaching programmes, our research activities, our industries, our alumni, our funding sources, government policy, etc. Regular surveys of the physics community are required to keep track of the changing situation that physics finds itself. Physicists need to be more engaging and proactive in stimulating debate on the ways forward. Physicists the world over have contributed enormously to innovation and technological growth in the first world, but this technological wave is yet to truly benefit the developing world. It is largely up to us to adapt to the needs of our country if physics is to play a pivotal role in our society. The adage 'think global, act local' must take on an even greater urgency as we work toward achieving this goal.

The main ideas to emerge from the conference are available in a 'Position Paper', initiated by Dr. Nithaya Chetty (Physics, UNP). This includes a work plan on how this wealth of information may be used and disseminated. A strength of a small conference without parallel sessions is the continuity and rapport that develops between delegates. This benefited COPID 2000 by providing an excellent forum for discussion which impacted on the position paper.

Key people in government see the strategic importance of the issues opened up at this conference. This was the message delivered by Dr. Ben Ngubane, Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, the key note speaker. In addition, Dr Mjwara of DACST and Dr Skeef of NRF presented papers describing government support structures to encourage industrial development and innovation.

Our challenge is to address these issues in the months and years ahead The position paper will assist delegates to communicate the outcomes of the conference and take on closer collaboration with industry within their own environments. For more information, and to access the position paper go to: or email

1) Fish eye pic


Readers may recognise 'the bridging the gap' theme in the COPID logo and the fish-eye photo of the industrial port of Durban from the roof of Physics Building, overlooking suburban Glenwood.

2) Group pic.


Delegates and organisers: COPID 2000 Holiday Inn, Elangeni, 4-7 Sept 2000

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