The top intellectual property creators at South Africa's publicly funded research institutions received acknowledgement for their work at the inaugural National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) Intellectual Property Creators Awards.


The awards recognise the creators of intellectual property (IP) for making actionable disclosures of IP to their institutions' offices of technology transfer (OTTs) at the point of publication.


Speaking at the awards ceremony in Pretoria on 28 March, the Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, said the Department of Science and Technology (DST) would continue to strive to ensure increased funding for basic research.


"The South African government is taking steps to ensure that publicly funded research generates intellectual property that will help grow the South African economy and, more importantly, help us deal with the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality."


The Minister added that it was important to put mechanisms and platforms in place to help increase the country's capacity to innovate.


"The establishment of the National Intellectual Property Management Office was an attempt by our government to incentivise and promote innovation within publicly financed institutions," she said.


The NIPMO Intellectual Property Creators Awards seek to promote the conversion of research and development (R&D) outputs into products, processes and services that are of benefit to society.


The recipients received certificates and grants – called Intellectual Property Creators' Incentives – to be used by their institutions' OTTs to advance the disclosures of their top IP creators to the next stage in the innovation value chain.


The awards are in line with section 9(4)(b) of the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act, which requires NIPMO to provide incentives to institutions and their intellectual property creators, "to reward them for proactively securing protection for intellectual property and commercialising it and, generally, for promoting innovation".


IP creators have been identified as having an important role to play in helping to achieve the outcomes of the National Development Plan, including the following:

  •          Outcome 2: A long and healthy life for all South Africans.
  •          Outcome 6: An efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network.
  •          Outcome 7: Vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities contributing to food security for all.
  •          Outcome 8: Sustainable human settlements and improved quality of household life.
  •          Outcome 10: Environmental assets and natural resources that are well protected and continually enhanced.


One of the award recipients was Prof. Janice Limson of Rhodes University, who holds the DST-NRF Research Chair in Biotechnology Innovation and Engagement.  Prof. Limson was acknowledged for her work on developing innovative diagnostic tests for pregnancy and malaria.


"It's very exciting to be part of this inaugural event, and I think there is enough space to acknowledge IP creation, commercialisation and production," said Prof. Limson.


In his remarks, the Director-General at the DST, Dr Phil Mjwara, noted that incentives to drive disclosures have largely been absent from the system.


"Despite the absence of incentives in IP creation, the 44 creators have been doing research with a strong potential to have an impact and result in products, processes and services that can improve the lives of our people," said Dr Mjwara


South Africa has a total of 37 higher education institutions and science councils. IP creators from 29 of these institutions were acknowledged at the awards, while 25 institutions received monetary awards.


The Head of NIPMO, Dr Kerry Faul, said that NIPMO was looking at supporting and creating OTTs at all institutions of higher education. "These form a critical part of developing a knowledge base that is able to drive technology transfer in the higher education sector," Dr Faul added.