Announcement: Approval of PHASE 2 

Developing a Fibre Micro-industry to Generate Economic Growth from Degraded Land

In mid 2020, the National Research Foundation (NRF) awarded the Resilient Futures interdisciplinary research alliance funding to embark on a second phase. This University of Cape Town (UCT) Community of Practice (CoP) developed and refined a novel approach through a process of discovery in Phase 1: the Multi-disciplinary Industrial Policy Approach (MMIP). It represents the CoP’s innovative conceptual approach to solving environmental, economic and social challenges in a holistic multi-disciplinary manner, so as to inform economic, industrial and environmental policy in South Africa.

In Phase 2, using the conceptual and analytical tools of economic complexity and the product space network, the CoP will identify a set of frontier products or diversification opportunities. These are products that offer growth opportunities that are economically feasible given a country’s current set of productive capabilities. The multi-disciplinary team will then meet and, using its diverse set of skills, identify the top three frontier products that will set South Africa on an inclusive and sustainable growth path. The following four criteria will be used to inform their selection: first, the product itself, or elements across the broader value chain related to the product, needs to be produced in a labour-intensive manner. Second, the production of the product needs to be environmentally sustainable and water wise. Third, the product needs to be mining related. Fourth, the product needs to offer export potential.

Once the top three frontier products have been selected, the CoP will shift into the formal stages of the MMIP Approach, where it will collaboratively apply its suite of differential skills – environmental, material and engineering, economic and legal – to devise unique value-added solutions for the relevant products. In particular, the approach aims to provide insight into the development of multi-product value chains that emanate from the identified products. Thereby, the CoP would generate a set of policy recommendations consistent with the broader policy aims outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP), and tailored towards guiding South Africa towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).



The DPRU will again be  looking at economic complexity and economic development, through concepts such as product space(s) and opportunities for diversification. DPRU Director Prof Haroon Bhorat is still project leader, and in light of the Community of Practice being a trans-disciplinary research undertaking, the DPRU will continue working with a number of researchers across other faculties in UCT:

  • Faculty of Law and The Mineral Law in Africa (MLiA) research unit – Prof. Hanri Moster.
  • Faculty of Engineering & Built Environment and the Minerals to Metals (MtM) Research unit – A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst.
  • Faculty of Engineering & Built Environment, and the Future Waters Research unit, and the Centre for Bioprocess Engineering Research (CeBER) – Prof. Sue Harrison.

For more information, please visit the project website: