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Dr Cornelius Ssemakalu of Iraka Biotech emerged victorious as his innovation start-up was announced as the overall winner of the 2020 GCIP-SA Programme

An innovation aimed at reducing the transmission of zoonotic diseases, and thereby improving the health of communities that rely on livestock for livelihoods, proved a winner, for Iraka Biotech Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Cornelius Cano Ssemakalu, as he scooped first prize-R200 000, in the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP-SA) for 2020.

An innovation start-up based in the Vaal, Iraka Biotech, won for its green and clean vaccine production platform that makes high quality veterinary vaccines affordable and reliably accessible.

The GCIP-SA an initiative of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), an entity of the Department Science and Innovation (DSI), announced the winner , in Johannesburg on Friday, 26 March. The process started in March 2020, attracting 81 prospective participants from around the country following an intensive drive of screenings.

Reacting to the win, Dr Ssemakalu said the innovation had the potential to reduce reliance of the animal sector on imported vaccines. He believes that the innovation will contribute to making quality vet vaccines available at a favourable price point.

Dr Ssemakalu, oversees the optimisation of the company’s platform technology for the different animal husbandry sectors and veterinary needs.

"I feel very honoured to have been part of the 2020 GCIP-SA cohort. I am also truly grateful for having emerged as a finalist and more importantly the recipient of the 2020 GCIP-SA's topmost award. Iraka Biotech intends to use this award to reduce the time it would have taken to validate a vaccine produced using its novel vaccine production platform technology,” he said.

He said it all started as an idea, and expanded when he shared his vision with relevant people that helped to develop concept and also help build his confidence to take the dream further.

“I then realised that perseverance is the common denominator among all the entrepreneurs that have survived this journey. The path is never straightforward but there is always help along the way, TIA offered me the assistance I needed. For me, it has always been about dignity, respect and equitable sharing of scientific discoveries," said Dr Ssemakalu.

The GCIP-SA promotes clean technology innovation and supports entrepreneurs in growing their small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) and start-ups into viable, investment-ready businesses.

The initiative was co-founded by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Cleantech Open.

First and second runners-up were Marlene Badenhorst of SlideLuvre and Ruse Moleshe, Sanineat (Pty) Ltd who each received a R100 000 for their clean and green innovations.

Badenhorst, described SlideLuvre, as an intelligent shading system for commercial buildings. Her innovation optimises solar energy generation, energy efficiency and occupant comfort thus reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions by as much as 50%.

Moleshe’s, Sanineat is the first green innovation enterprise in Mpumalanga that grows low-cost and drought resistant moringa ‘miracle’ trees to produce biodiesel, oil, powdered leaves, and seedcake, among others. The seed residue of the moringa tree is used to to purify water, thus creating several jobs in the community and alleviating poverty and malnutrition in children and livestock.

The company makes a positive impact on the South African socio-economy by providing affordable clean fuel, employing rural communities, contributing to reduction of global CO2 emissions and water use through its efficient dry wash system

Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation and Resources at the DSI,  Daan du Toit said the awards coincides with the week in which Cabinet approved the first draft of the Department’s decadal plan for science and innovation, which is highly significant in South Africa’s science and technology landscape.

“The GCIP-SA is one of the programmes advancing the circular economy, new knowledge and a green economy which is a critical part of South Africa’s economic recovery plan. The finalists are excellent ambassadors for South Africa and can count on the support of government and the Department of Science & Innovation.”

Lead judge, Mr Mphathi Nyewe of Black Business Council (BBC) congratulated all the finalists, saying all of them winners and that all their pitches were of high standard.  He said the future was in science and innovation and it was encouraging to see young people taking the leading and participating in such initiatives. 

TIA Acting Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Krappie, emphasised the importance of partnerships in achieving the country’s goals for innovation and economic growth. “This team embodies the capabilities we have as South Africans; it is the young entrepreneurs that will put South Africa on the world stage. In fact, one of our previous winners went on to win the global competition of GCIP.”

The acting Head of the Programme, Senisha Moonsamy said the deliverables of the programme were in line with TIA’s key performance indicator which aims to assist SMMEs with receiving technological support.

“We are proud of the achievements of all our finalists, a special congratulations to Cornelius for his groundbreaking innovation. Our 2020 GCIP contestants have truly shown the immense potential and growth we have as a country that thrives on innovation and curbing youth unemployment through their innovative and needed products and services,'' said Ms Moonsamy

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Issued by the Department of Science and Innovation and Technology Innovation Agency

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For Enquiries:

 

Vusi Langa: Head Marketing and Communications (TIA) at 0737660200; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Veronica Mohapeloa: Deputy Director: Media Liaison (DSI) at 0834005750 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.