Dr Rob Adam presented the Annual Academy Lecture on 24 February 2021 online from the University of Cape Town. The topic of the lecture was “Technology, policy and politics: critical success factors in high-technology infrastructure projects”. Dr Adam is a Fellow of SAAE and was appointed Director of the South African Square Kilometre Array (SKA) RadioTelescope project in 2016 and became Managing Director of the SA Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) when this new National Facility was declared by the Minister of Science and Technology in 2017.
In the lecture Dr Adam examined critical success factors in high technology projects by comparing the Square Kilometre Array, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor and the Reactor Conversion Project in the context of a historical view of South African technology policy He said that these three complex endeavours illustrated rather well what mistakes could be made in the conceptualising and in the execution of such projects. His conclusion was that the confluence of a range of diverse factors such as sufficient prototyping, understanding and balancing political stakeholders, getting the organisational culture right and managing ambitions and aspirations was necessary for success to be achieved.