Dr Sipho Mbatha is the first South African to obtain a Doctorate in Fashion Design at the Tshwane University of Technology during the virtual June graduations. The title of his dissertation is Exploring University-Industry-Government (UIG) research linkages in the clothing manufacturing industry of South Africa.

Making history at one of the June Graduation ceremonies hosted virtually at the Pretoria Campus, is Dr Sipho Mbatha (34), the first South African to obtain a Doctorate at TUT’s Department of Fashion Design.

Dr Sipho Mbatha, who is a lecturer at TUT’s Faculty of the Arts and Design, Department of Design Studies says the relevance of his study relates to current debates on how the South African Clothing, Textiles, Leather and Footwear (CTLF) industry can improve its competitive advantage. This study locates the Sectoral Systems of Innovation at the heart of competitive advantage development in the sector. According to Dr Mbatha, this gap has been alluded to in previous studies.

Dr Mbatha says he was motivated to complete his Doctoral studies by his research mentor and supervisor Prof Anne Mastamet-Mason. As Dr Mbatha himself says, “When Prof Mastamet-Mason recruited me to come back for my B-Tech in 2009; she indicated that she wanted me to be the first South African to obtain a Doctorate in Fashion Design. I took on her challenge, since I never back down from any challenge. Through her mentorship and supervision, I passed both my B-Tech and M-Tech with distinction. It would be a historic omission if I do not stress the critical role the NRF Thuthuka grant played in this achievement.”

A proud Prof Mastamet-Mason says Dr Mbatha’s study reveals a disconnection between the industry, the University and the government role in strengthening the South African fashion industry, particularly in the areas of product development that can promote the manufacture of textiles for the South African fashion industry. Sustainable development issues are at the heart of current global academic debates. Dr Mbatha’s findings further reveal that there are currently no research partnerships among the various stakeholders, yet the goals can be realised or strengthened through research collaboration. “It has contributed significantly to the Triple Helix Theory and has yielded recommendations for governmental policy makers,” she adds.

The findings of the study have already been presented at two international conferences and two articles have been submitted for publication.