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The Gauteng Research Triangle is a research collaborative in Gauteng between the University of Johannesburg, the University of Pretoria, and the University of the Witwatersrand.

These three leading, research-intensive universities have decided to pool their considerable resources to enhance our understanding of the space we all inhabit, the people who inhabit it, the policies needed to balance social, economic, and sustainable priorities, and how best to maximise the impact of the universities on society.

The Gauteng Research Triangle (GRT) was founded in 2019 with the intention of creating a critical mass that would allow the GRT to step beyond project-based research and competition in preference jointly undertaking audacious research projects to enable global competitiveness in research and translate this leading research into national (South Africa) and regional (Africa) impact.

The GRT is committed to changing the Gauteng space to improve the lives of the poor.

The challenges facing the planet and humankind are urgent, complex, complicated, wicked, constantly evolving and bring high levels of uncertainty about the sustainability of our future. Such significant problems require large and ambitious responses – and no single entity or discipline can address them on their own. We have a collective responsibility to own our future, but also a collective power if we come together in transformational partnerships to collaborate.

The best place to start is in Gauteng, the engine that drives our nation’s free-market economy and democracy. The Gauteng Research Triangle – a transformational, first of its kind collaboration between three leading higher education institutions in the province – aims to equip decision-makers with up-to-date evidence that can lead the transformation society requires. Now is the time to not only collaborate between institutions, but also across of disciplines to develop an integrated research agenda that embraces technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and the data sciences.

Higher education can play a leading role in creating societies that prosper and thrive by putting our people and infrastructure to work towards a common goal – improving and sustaining human and planetary life. As universities are also uniquely positioned to bring together people from all walks of life and entities from all sectors to share knowledge and collectively champion change. We live in the era of disruptions and our response must and will be valorising co-creation of knowledge for transformative change.

Neither the present nor the future need be worrying. What matters now is that we come together and leverage the power of partnerships to draw on our individual strengths and achieve far more than what the best of us could do alone.

We have no option but to the key drivers of and agents of change for better sustainable futures for humanity in harmony with the planet. We must and will step up for change.

Message from Prof Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Pretoria

There is great power in the collective to establish synergies, which leverage off resources in the interest of the public good. Gauteng is the economic hub of South Africa and drives much of the growth and job creation in the country, which at this juncture has been hard hit by the pandemic. The socioeconomic imperatives of our country need to be at the fore of our research agenda whilst ensuring that there is a broader impact not only in the rest of South Africa but globally. We cannot be myopic in this quest and must rise to connect the dots both locally and globally. In striving for research excellence, we commit ourselves to the public good, embracing technological innovation and ensuring that the human and the humane are at the centre of our agendas. The complexity of our societal problems of today and tomorrow require collaborative research that cuts across disciplinary boundaries, partnerships that cross institutions and countries and pathways for impact across the globe. Higher education holds the promise for our future and our research has to now be embedded in addressing the myriad challenges that face the global community. We are responsible for creating spaces for Africa to rightfully sit at the table.

Message from Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Johannesburg

Gauteng is a critical space for understanding many current global challenges, from carbon emissions to identity, from a massive public health burden to innovation and entrepreneurship and growing a sustainable economy—this tiny space, just 1.4% of South Africa’s land mass, generates over a third of national GDP and the provincial economy is also the 7th largest economy in Africa. Gauteng is at the cutting edge of these and many other challenges, with the goal of creating a future that is better, in every respect, than our past. This requires path-breaking, innovative research if it is to succeed. And it requires working smart, at scale, and with a critical mass – which is why these three great African universities, all research intensive, have come together to form the Gauteng Research Triangle (GRT). The GRT represents a bold step: to pool our resources, our complementary areas and strength and skill, and deploy these for improving the quality of life of all who live here (and beyond), as well as enriching the student experience by providing access to remarkable datasets, technologies, and partnerships across the three universities. As we slowly emerge from Covid, the Gauteng Research Triangle is the natural partner for government, private sector, and civil society, to jointly build back better, but then push harder and make the future infinitely better than the status quo ante. We believe that the GRT has massive potential impact on policy, economic development, governance, health, education, climate change, democratization—the GRT is willing to face the most ‘wicked’ problems and seek to resolve them through our collective commitment to outstanding research that changes our world

Message from Prof Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Witwatersrand
We believe that the GRT has massive potential impact on policy, economic development, governance, health, education, climate change, democratization


Proximity, high research output, and good international reputations are all important components of a successful research alliance. The three institutions – UJ, UP and Wits – are well positioned to establish a geography-based research alliance, given their current institutional strengths and research performance.

Hunger for collective action to effect change is another key component of any alliance is hunger – including offering opportunities for all academic staff and students to benefit from the work of the GRT. This we have in abundance! It is enhanced by our location, in the economic heartland of South Africa, which includes some of the most unequal and highly dense urban spaces on the planet. Gauteng, with an economy that ranks in the top 10 in Africa, drives change in South and southern Africa, whether economic, health, socio-political or in multiple other areas.

The rationale behind setting audacious goals is that the complex challenges that hinder human and sustainable development are often beyond being challenged by solo efforts and attendant limited resources. In order to understand, address and turn the tide against such challenges, it was agreed that all three institutions should combine their resources to produce outcomes that no institution alone could do. In the model of the ‘Research Triangle’ in central North Carolina, USA, and the Russel Group, in the UK.

The GRT is a partnership between the three academic institutions, as well as a collaboration with a range of stakeholders in government, industry, and civil society. Broader research community?

This relationship implies trans-, multi-, and interdisciplinary approaches, backed by human and financial resources. The GRT is a collaborative research consortium that seeks to leverage the co-design, co-creation, and co-ownership of challenges to achieve broader socio-economic impact.


The administering organisation is the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, on behalf of ‘The Gauteng Research Triangle’ comprising the University of Johannesburg, the University of Pretoria, and the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.

University of Pretoria

University of Johannesburg

University of the Witwatersrand