The Nelson Mandela University has a long track record of research in the field of rubber science and technology. Furthermore, the university has long been active as a training institution in this field, providing education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Research into rubber science and technology began in 1975 with the generous assistance of General Tyre (today Continental Tyre South Africa) and has continued to this day. Research and development work has been performed by the Physical and Polymer Chemistry Research Group at Nelson Mandela University with the support of industries such a Continental Tyre South Africa, Goodyear Tyre South Africa, Algorax, Karbochem, Aberdare Cables, Eskom and Sasol during this period.

To date, over 50 MSc and PhD students have graduated from the Nelson Mandela University, having completed their research projects in the Physical and Polymer Chemistry Research Group. Many of these graduates are today employed in the local tyre and rubber industry with a number having gone on to establish rubber-related SMMEs such as S&N rubber.

The quality of the Physical and Polymer Chemistry Research Group has been recognised by the South African Rubber and Tyre Industry on a number of occasions with the William Sage medal, the highest award of the South African Section of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, being awarded to Prof Willie McGill in 1999 and Dr Chris Woolard in 2011 for work conducted at Nelson Mandela University.