University of Cape Town (UCT)
Universiteit van Kaapstad

South Africa

Research Highlights and Innovations 2019-2020

Research Highlights and Innovations 2019-2020

The University of Cape Town’s (UCT) geographical vantage point at the tip of Africa offers an exhilarating research environment that combines excellence with impact.

As a leading research university, UCT is one of the best places in the world to research Africa-specific problems, from the chemistry of malarial drug discovery to the development of urban Africa. We have strong collaborative networks across the globe and often form a nexus of partnerships between researchers in the global north and global south, particularly Africa. UCT is the first university in Africa to join the International Alliance of Research Universities. It is therefore not surprising that we attract researchers — from postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows to leaders in their field — from all over the continent and the world.

Healthcare for Africa

In a country that faces four epidemics, where most countries only have one or two, UCT has developed expertise in addressing healthcare in Africa. The Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine and the Drug Discovery and Development Centre have produced ground-breaking research, particularly in the areas of HIV, TB and malaria. The Wellcome Centre for Infectious Diseases Research in Africa is the first of its kind in Africa.

Climate and development

UCT has extensive interdisciplinary expertise in conservation, climate adaptation and community conflict. The AXA Research Fund awarded its first research chair in Africa to the director of the African Climate & Development Initiative, a leading research group. The Future Water Institute builds on UCT’s substantial research footprint in water and encompasses the skills and resources of departments across six faculties. UCT also hosts two Centres of Excellence under the African Research Universities Alliance, which draw together expertise from across the continent: the African Centre of Excellence for Inequalities Research and the Centre of Excellence in Climate and Development.

Experts in the southern skies

Through its global experts in the field, such as Professor George Ellis who co-wrote The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time with Stephen Hawking, and leading role in the Square Kilometre Array, UCT is a growing hub for astronomical and astrophysics research in Africa. Professor Russ Taylor is heading up the university’s involvement in the Square Kilometre Array project and the big-data challenges it brings.

UCT’s latest research

UCT’s research magazine, Research Highlights and Innovations 2019-2020, features research stories from across the university, as does its research and innovation news site.

University of Cape Town retains sole responsibility for content © 2021 University of Cape Town.

1 October 2019 - 30 September 2020

Region: Global
Subject/journal group: All

The table to the right includes counts of all research outputs for University of Cape Town (UCT) published between 1 October 2019 - 30 September 2020 which are tracked by the Nature Index.

Hover over the donut graph to view the FC output for each subject. Below, the same research outputs are grouped by subject. Click on the subject to drill-down into a list of articles organized by journal, and then by title.

Note: Articles may be assigned to more than one subject area.

Count Share
168 16.44

Outputs by subject (Share)

Subject Count Share
Life Sciences 64 5.78
Physical Sciences 86 3.74
Chemistry 10 3.38
Earth & Environmental Sciences 27 4.95

Highlight of the month

Biodiversity is built on stable ground

© Guenter Fischer/Getty

© Guenter Fischer/Getty

Today’s biodiversity hotspots are brimming with species because they have enjoyed long periods of ecological stability.

Investigations into global biodiversity patterns have mainly focussed on diversity decline from equator to pole. But this fails to separate high productivity — whereby an ecosystem generates a lot of biomass — from environmental stability, because the tropics have both.

Now, a team that included researchers from the University of Cape Town has studied the distribution of just over 4,800 plant species across the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, and created biodiversity maps of this extra-tropical hotspot. They compared these to maps of biome stability (how big and old an ecosystem is), climate stability over the past 140,000 years, rainfall seasonality, landscape features, and productivity.

Biome stability and low rainfall seasonality were the key drivers of biodiversity across the region — a finding that goes against theories that posit that productivity is behind species richness. It also suggests that these well-established ecosystems could be at particular risk from rapid climate change.

Supported content

  1. PNAS 117, 20027–20037 (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1915646117

View the article on the Nature Index

See more research highlights from University of Cape Town (UCT)

More research highlights from University of Cape Town (UCT)

1 October 2019 - 30 September 2020

International vs. domestic collaboration by Share

  • 8.2% Domestic
  • 91.8% International

Note: Hover over the graph to view the percentage of collaboration.

Note: Collaboration is determined by the fractional count (Share), which is listed in parentheses.

Affiliated joint institutions and consortia

Return to institution outputs