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Universities can contribute to economic transformation
2010-01-27

At the lecture were, from the left: Prof. Neil Heideman (Acting Dean: Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences), Prof. Hartmut Frank (University of Bayreuth, Germany), Prof. Bianchi and Prof. Jan van der Westhuizen (professor in Chemistry at the UFS).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe 


Universities have a role to play in economic transformation and industrial development according to Prof. Fabrizio Bianchi, the Rector of the University of Ferrara in Italy.

This was the core message of his lecture on the topic Globalisation, Agriculture and Industrial Development that he delivered at the University of the Free State.

He said after the collapse of the agricultural industry in Italy as a result of the subsidies that the farmers were receiving from the government, the university had to step in.

“This was meant to maintain high prices and maximize the production but in the long run this approach created problems because the farmers were no longer producing high quality products but large quantities in order to receive subsidies,” he said.

“The result was that the government itself had to destroy those poor quality products. This was a completely unreasonable way to manage the economy”.

He said they had to abandon that approach and concentrate on quality because they realized that Italy could not match the prices and the quantity, in terms of production, of countries like China and the USA.

He said “knowledge and human resources” were the key factors that could get them out of that crisis; hence they came up with what he called “the Made in Italy approach”.

“We were working on the idea that food is part of culture and that it is not just simply for refueling the body,” he said.

“One of the fundamental ideas was to come back to the idea that production is the centre of the development process.”

“Quality is a very complex, collective issue,” he said. “You cannot understand development if you do not understand that you have to base it on strong roots”.

This approach resulted in the formation of several companies with specialized niche markets producing high quality products.

His visit to the UFS coincided with that of the 1991 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Prof. Richard Ernst from Switzerland, who was also part of the fourth presentation of the Cheese fondue concept.

The main thrust of this concept is that technical advances alone are insufficient for an agreement to be reached on the minimum respect between the various groups and individuals within a society. It proposes that for this to be achieved there has to be a concurrent development of empathy and emotional synergy.

Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt@ufs.ac.za  
27 January 2010

 

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