Although a number of universities and technical universities had research activities in nanotechnology before the beginning of 2002, there was no organised network or lobby group to bring about collaboration, coordination and investment in this area in South Africa. In March of 2002 the director of M&Mtek, Dr. Maree, initiated a project managed by M. Scriba to look at the opportunities and threats that nanotechnology (and MEMS) could offer. At the time it was not well understood what nanotechnology was about.
At the same time a meeting was called by Dr. Phil Mjwara (NLC) and Dr. Malik Maaza (Wits) under the auspice of DST to announce and investigate the funding and collaboration possibilities the European Commission (EC) FP6 programme had to offer. M. Scriba attended the meeting as representative of CSIR and announced that CSIR had an interest and activities in nanotechnology and intended to be involved in South Africa.
This meeting turned out to be the founding meeting of SANi and M. Scriba volunteered to be on the executive with Dr. Mjwara and Dr. Maaza and so started the serious involvement in the implementation of nanotechnology in SA and the CSIR.
Following this founding meeting a first SANi/DST workshop was organised and a database of people constructed by M. Scriba. The workshop, which was sponsored by DST and attended by more than 100 people offered a great opportunity for awareness generation and networking and can be seen as the official start of nanotechnology in SA. At this workshop Dr. Adi Paterson (DDG of DST) acknowledged the importance of nanotechnology as a new research field and commited DST to supporting the initiative. The overwhelming majority of delegates supported the idea of an initiative (SANi) and elected a committee with M. Scriba as chairman.