31 July 2023

Dr. Stroebel's new role holds significant importance in providing strategic leadership for research, innovation, and partnerships, including Library and Information Services and Institutional Centres and Institutes.

He emphasizes the importance of aligning UMP's research and innovation strategy with its vision and mandate, focusing on sustainability and impact. He aims to engage with a broad range of stakeholders in advancing the university's research profile and capacity towards local relevance, regional impact, and global recognition.

Dr. Stroebel believes that his appointment offers a significant opportunity to join not only a new university but one that has demonstrated the importance of research in becoming a competitive institution.

“The goal is to contribute to South Africa's knowledge system and network and to establish a research culture and infrastructure at the university. The formalization of the DVC portfolio for research is a significant step in the university's efforts in building a recognized research profile," remarked Dr. Stroebel.

He expressed excitement about returning to higher education, and to re-establish his research in agricultural innovation systems. "This role resonates with our local community, province, and the country, as it not only focuses on knowledge production but also emphasizes the real-world applicability of our research, leading to tangible benefits," he stated.

As a relatively new university in South Africa, UMP has been diligently developing its research portfolio, and this formalization of the Research, Innovation, and Internationalisation portfolio signifies the institution's commitment to research advancement, partnership strengthening, and fostering innovation. Dr. Stroebel underscores the significance of an enabling environment, researchers' capabilities, research culture, and postgraduate capacity in building a robust research profile.

"The establishment of a research profile for a new university hinges on researchers' capabilities, the research culture fostered within the institution, and the growth of postgraduate programmes. We are focused on building the capacity of both established and emerging researchers, gaining new talent, driving innovation through existing and new research niche areas, and forging strategic partnerships to strengthen and advance our research endeavours," said Dr. Stroebel.

Enhancing Research and Innovation

Dr. Stroebel further elaborated on the importance of collaboration, alignment, and integration among the different portfolios and support programmes within the university. Working cohesively and innovatively across all functions is essential for the overall development of the university, and the centrality of research and innovation.

Regarding the immediate tasks at hand, Dr. Stroebel emphasized understanding the university's research landscape, analysing its innovation potential, and enhancing research and innovation support functions. He emphasized the need to develop and strengthen research management support functions in the Faculties in collaboration with the Research Management Office, and the need for a robust early career researcher development programme, including adequate funding involving Faculties and various support functions to strengthen research capabilities.

Strategic Research Leader

Dr. Stroebel shared his passion for contributing to the university's growth, stating, "I look forward to advancing the strong basis of research and innovation established, and bringing a significant network for engagement and resource leveraging.”

Before joining UMP, Dr. Stroebel served as the Executive Director: Strategic Partnerships at the National Research Foundation (NRF) from 2013-2023. His tenure at the University of the Free State (UFS) from 2003 to 2013 showcased his diverse roles, including Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor in the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Founding Director of International Affairs, and Director of International Academic and Transformation Projects in the Office of the Vice-Chancellor and Rector.

He serves on the Board of the Water Research Commission, is a Foreign Fellow of the Ugandan National Academy of Science, a Senior Fellow of the Pan-African Scientific Council, an Honorary Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, and a founding member of the SA Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).

Dr. Stroebel holds a Ph.D. in Sustainable Agriculture, a Joint Programme between the University of the Free State and Cornell University, USA. He obtained a Master's in International Agricultural Development at Ghent University, Belgium, with Postdoctoral work at Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands.

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures supplied.