Building innovative technology businesses key to sustainable economy

From life-saving technology to high-tech communication solutions, the second Innovation Bridge hosted by the Department of Science and Technology in partnership with its entity the Technology Innovation Agency was a display local innovation at its best. South Africa's Innovation Bridge technology matchmaking and showcase event was held is Midrand last week featuring over 100 innovations.


Building on the success of the first Innovation Bridge technology showcase and matchmaking event, held in 2015, this year's event focused on new measures to accelerate local innovation for commercialisation, and offers an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to present their innovative technologies to potential investors and commercialisation partners.


Organised by the Department of Science and Technology, the Innovation Bridge is different to other such events owing to its focus on technologies developed in publicly funded South African research and development institutions, such as universities and science councils, and by government-funded companies.


Potential funders and business partners will have the opportunity to evaluate a range of new local innovations on show – from new industrial isotope technology, construction polymers, and higher-yield wind turbines, to smart water metering systems and additive manufacturing technology for prosthetics and medical devices.


Zenzeleni Community Wifi Network Solutions, one of the small businesses exhibiting at the Innovation Bridge, has developed a technology that uses wireless mesh networking to enable users to make free internal voice over internet protocol calls, significantly reducing the cost of mobile calls and data.  With sufficient funding to take it to market, this solution could benefit hundreds of poor South Africans, especially in remote rural areas.


Various experts in the world of business and technology are attending the event, including people like global business speaker Vusi Thembekwayo and Matsi Modise, Managing Director of Simodisa.


Speaking in a panel discussion on advancing inclusive economic growth in South Africa through innovation, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, said the government was committed to supporting innovation as part of the National Development Plan. The country's public policy fosters socio-economic growth and industry-science linkages through increased investment in research, human capital development, intellectual property and trade in high-technology industries.


"We need to really develop ways to build capacity, seize new ideas, nurture them and make sure businesses are sustainable," said Minister Pandor.


"I am confident that deals, collaborations and partnerships will come out of this event, as the various role players show their ability to turn ideas into new technologies."


Keynote speaker, Mr Pavlo Phitidis, CEO and co-founder of Aurik Business Accelerator, citing the country's unemployment rate, said South Africa had to reshape its economy to remain sustainable.


"Unless we get this right, anything we do is really of no value, and people need to be included in order for sustainability to come about," said Mr Phitidis.


He called for big business to invest in innovative technologies, for government to provide sound policy and leadership certainty, for civil society to demand standards and services, for labour to upskill, and for parents to insist on high standards of maths and science education.


The event also saw the launch of the Innovation Bridge Portal, an online website that serves as an online technology innovation market place for South Africa and its innovation partners on the continent and across the globe.


Issued by the Department of Science and Technology.


Enquiries: contact Lunga Ngqengelele at 082 566 0446 or Veronica Mohapeloa at 083 400 5750


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