Gauteng is gearing up to become a regional and global force with the provincial government set to launch the R40million Gauteng City-Region Observatory.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Witwatersrand University (Wits) have teamed up with the provincial government "to help the province improve service delivery and plan for the improvement of lives", said UJ's Peter Alexander.
Wits deputy vice-chancellor in advancement and partnerships Rob Moore said: "The unprecedented (three-way partnership), with the private sector later joining the research council, will be symbolic of economic power."
He said: "The observatory will improve the capacity of Gauteng to drive and influence the commerce of the continent and understand the different dynamics that go with such an economy."
"The idea of a city region observatory is to ensure that universities play a meaningful role in creating a leading economy based on international examples," said Alexander, who is director of the centre for sociological research at UJ.
He said research would look at economic factors such as transport, health, education and environment - and how it interacts with power generation among other things.
Provincial spokesman Thabo Masebe said the government and academics needed such a relationship and it should in fact have happened much earlier.
"As government we have set goals, but to plan better we need to be advised by research," Masebe said.
The official launch will take place tomorrow, with Premier Mbhazima Shilowa unveiling the facilities at Wits.
The provincial government will provide an R8million annual budget for the project, while the two universities will provide their intellectual capital, time and resources.
The observatory will be fully staffed before the end of the year.