The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and its entity, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), have officially launched the Grassroots Innovation Programme (GIP), which is designed to identify and support innovators and inventors who do not have a formal education or access to formal innovation facilities.

 

The launch took place at the Tshwane University of Technology's Shoshunguve South Campus today. The campus is home to three offices of technology transfer (OTTs), specialising in chemicals, advanced tooling, and electronics respectively. These facilities, supported by the DST and TIA, offer a wide range of scientific and technology services designed, among others, to help companies and wider communities to improve the quality of their offerings. The OTTs will provide key support for innovators in the GIP.

 

Today's launch was the culmination of a process which started in January 2019 with a call for local innovations. The call attracted 300 responses from across the country, and the DST will be supporting at least 100 local innovators to develop their concepts through the GIP.  The participants had to come up with proposals, at the early proof of concept stage, with the potential to solve social challenges or provide technology solutions to specific needs.

 

Patrick Krappie, General Manager: Strategic Partnerships at the TIA, said the GIP makes it possible for anyone with a good idea that responds to societal challenges to become an innovator. "Innovation and invention are not the exclusive remit of the haves and the educated," said Krappie.

 

Attending today's launch were eight innovators, including two learners, who form the first cohort of recipients whose ideas have been chosen to benefit from the GIP. They will now receive support from the TIA to further develop their ideas into products or services.

 

Krappie emphasised the value of innovations that do not necessarily make a lot of money but instead improve people's lives, which is the aim of the GIP. He defined a grassroots innovator as an individual who undertakes innovations to solve local challenges using local resources and capabilities while working outside the realm of formal innovation and research institutions.

 

Through the programme, innovators will be linked to the relevant experts and advanced facilities where their innovations/inventions will be further developed to support market entry. They will be provided with skills development programmes to understand their subject matter better, and with the entrepreneurship skills and knowledge they need to commercially market their inventions.

 

The assistance that will be provided to grassroots innovators will include technical skills development, research and development (R&D), prototype development, entrepreneurship development, access to markets, technology development, product development, software support, quality management systems, modelling and simulation, intellectual property (IP) protection, knowledge and skills transfer, design and tooling machinery, and access to technical expertise.

 

The Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said in a speech delivered by DST Deputy Director-General Imraan Patel that the recently approved White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation strengthens the importance of the GIP.

 

The new policy specifically states that the national system of innovation should support inclusive development, including social and grassroots innovation. It states that all sectors of society should be enabled to equitably access the country's knowledge infrastructure, to participate in creating and advancing innovation opportunities, and to share in the benefits of innovation.
 

The success of the GIP will also require the active involvement of civil society as a source of innovation, information sharing, networks, intelligence, market access opportunities.

 

"Working together, we can ensure that the objectives of the national roll-out of the GIP are achieved," the Minister said, listing these objectives as follows:

  • To increase participation in the country's knowledge infrastructure.
  • To realise tangible economic benefits, such as helping grassroots innovators to become sustainable, profitable businesses.
  • To collaborate with other stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem, including entrepreneur support organisations and instruments in the private sector, to raise additional funding for innovations
  • To foster effective linkages between the GIP, private sector entities and other government initiatives that could support and complement the expansion of grassroots activities in the nine provinces.

As part of the launch event, a number of innovators showcased products and services they had developed with the assistance of the DST and TIA.

 

A tour of the Institute for Advanced Tooling, an OTT funded and supported by the DST and TIA, highlighted the role of such facilities in advancing the country's industrial sector. The facility gives mechanical engineering students the opportunity to complete their practical training, and will also provide crucial support to participants in the GIP.

 

Issued by the Department of Science and Technology

 

For more information, contact Veronica Mohapeloa at 083 400 5750 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.