Pontsho Maruping: Space, Tech, and Innovation

Updated: Apr 24

Pontsho Maruping is the Deputy Managing Director – Operations and Business Processes - for the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), in Cape Town, and Chair of the South African Council for Space Affairs.

She started her career in the mining industry working for De Beers and Anglo American. During South Africa’s transition to democracy, Pontsho joined the Department of Science and Technology (DST) to contribute to rebuilding the science system. Her passion for technology commercialisation was sparked when she joined the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) as an executive, where she eventually became responsible for a portfolio of more than 160 investments.

During her time at TIA, Pontsho introduced a new seed fund targeted at supporting early-stage technology ideas at universities and start-ups. Today, she has introduced an internal entrepreneurship initiative to support employees with innovative ideas on a journey to commercialisation.

What or who inspired your spark for science?

I’ve always been curious about science, and as a child preferred toys that I could take apart and put together again. Then, in high school, I met a teacher that loved mathematics so much that I fell in love with the subject too. At that point, I knew I would always be involved in science.

For you, what’s the most enjoyable aspect about being a scientist?

Though I primarily work in a managerial role, I have engineers and scientists that report to me and as a team, we work to achieve the objectives for our division. What I enjoy about STEM in general is that we’re constantly solving problems in a dynamic environment - an environment where you cannot control some of the parameters.

When you’re not doing science, you…

…I love traveling, playing golf, and running, reading, watching Formula 1, and rugby.

Pontsho Maruping’s career in mining, technology and science innovation, and commercialisation spans 30 years. She has a Masters in Space Systems Engineering from Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands; an Executive MBA from IMD in Switzerland; a BSc in Management of Technology from University of Pretoria, and a BSc in Mineral Processing from the University of Witwatersrand.

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