BMW and Stellenbosch University entered into a partnership

[Article by Nane Zietsman]

BMW and Stellenbosch University partner to offer new opportunities for postgraduate students

The Faculty of Engineering at Stellenbosch University recently joined forces with BMW Group South Africa, specifically the BMW IT Hub, to develop a homegrown IT talent pipeline for the company. The initiative aims to promote skills in artificial intelligence and data analysis, ultimately creating a pool of talented students that will support BMW in growing and maintaining software in the scope of their IT business.

The partnership involves a framework agreement of five years, starting in 2022 with ten master’s students. BMW will sponsor bursaries for selected postgraduate students in the fields of machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), prescriptive analytics, product data traceability, Al reporting and new methods of cloudification. These students will have the opportunity to conduct research in product integration and conformity of the product (PICOP) as well as digital vehicle file (DVF). In addition, the agreement specifies that BMW has full rights to the intellectual property created in this process, enabling the transfer of material to their ZA Hub to explore and refine. The expectation is that consigned students will graduate as well-versed professionals in BMW IT topics and solutions, paving the way for new technologies, techniques, and innovative thinking.

Prof Corné Schutte, the project leader at the university, had structured the project as a collaboration between different research groups in the faculty. Research groups in Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and Industrial Engineering currently take part in the overall project. “Having a reputable international company such as BMW as a research partner in the faculty creates exciting opportunities for the University and its students. We are excited to be part of BMW’s future expansion in South Africa, delivering talent for their ZA Hub talent pipeline and performing leading research that will help keep BMW at the forefront of technology. We have been impressed with the seriousness and professionalism of the BMW stakeholders involved, not only in South Africa but also in Munich”, says Prof Schutte.

Prof Wikus van Niekerk, Dean of Engineering at Stellenbosch, said that this exciting collaboration between Stellenbosch University and BMW will add significant value to our teaching and research programmes. “Industry collaboration is one of the three main strategic objectives of the faculty; it is seen as a critical enabler to ensure that our teaching and research programmes are relevant to and support the industry as a key stakeholder. This collaboration will offer a unique opportunity to achieve this objective”.

SU students attend first onboarding sessions at BMW

Ten Master’s students from the Department of Industrial Engineering and the Department of Mechanical & Mechatronic Engineering recently attended a five-day onboarding session at the Midrand and Menlyn campuses. The purpose of the sessions was to give students a background of BMW’s organisational structure, working methodology and company culture. Programme activities included a visit to the impressive and award-winning Rosslyn manufacturing plant. The plant has a maximum capacity of 77 000 units per annum and exports over 97% of its produced vehicles to BMW Group markets across the globe.

“The research visit equipped our students with the necessary framework and technical information to take their respective theses forward. These research projects are all aimed at presenting BMW with solutions to business problems and aid in streamlining their operations,” says Dr Stephan Nel, lecturer in the Department of Industrial Engineering.

The Faculty welcomes this opportunity to allow our talented students to further their studies and upskill themselves with the knowledge and experience to thrive in the future workplace.

We are confident in our students’ ability to produce world-class research and look forward to a prosperous partnership with BMW.


Bottom row (from left to right):
Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor at Stellenbosch University
Mr Klaus van der Osten-Sacken, Director of Digital and Global Solutions at BMW Group South Africa
Dr Andreas Hees, Head of Business Management at BMW Group IT Hub South Africa

Top row (from left to right):
Prof Corne Schutte, Chairman Department of Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University)
Prof Wikus van Niekerk, Dean of Engineering at Stellenbosch University
Mr Alexander Buresch, Senior Vice President (CIO) at BMW Group
Dr Carsten Sapia, Vice President IT Strategy, Governance, and IT Security at BMW Group