SA innovation gets a boost

The panel at the opening of Innovation Bridge 2017:
Matsi Modise, Managing Director, SiMODiSA. Polo Leteka, Executive Director, IDF Capital. Gil Oved, Group CEO, The Creative Counsel. Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology. Edward Kieswetter, Chairman of the Board, Technology Innovation Agency 
Pavlo Phitidis, CEO, Aurik Business Accelerator.

The panel at the opening of Innovation Bridge 2017: Matsi Modise, Managing Director, SiMODiSA. Polo Leteka, Executive Director, IDF Capital. Gil Oved, Group CEO, The Creative Counsel. Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology. Edward Kieswetter, Chairman of the Board, Technology Innovation Agency Pavlo Phitidis, CEO, Aurik Business Accelerator.

The need for a supportive ecosystem to drive South African innovation emerged as a key theme at the opening plenary of the second Innovation Bridge Technology Matchmaking and Showcasing summit in Johannesburg last week.

Over 700 innovators, academics, government officials and potential investors gathered at Gallagher Convention Centre to assess the opportunities and challenges for innovation in South Africa. It was noted that innovation can't thrive in a vacuum and that supportive ecosystems are important for helping innovators take their concepts from bright idea to sustainable business.

Phil Mjwara, director general at the Department of Science and Technology.

Phil Mjwara, director general at the Department of Science and Technology.

Pavlo Phitidis, CEO of Aurik Business Accelerator, said in his keynote address: "It takes a country to build a sustainable technology business." He urged big businesses to invest more and open up their supply chains, government to ensure policy and leadership stability, and the advancement of STEM skills, all of which would help drive the growth of the innovation sector in South Africa.

Pavlo Phitidis, CEO, Aurik Business Accelerator.

Pavlo Phitidis, CEO, Aurik Business Accelerator.

Following the inaugural Innovation Bridge summit and showcase in 2015, during which public-funded innovations were showcased to potential commercialisation partners, Innovation Bridge 2017 expanded its reach and announced the launch of a dedicated Innovation Bridge portal, www.innovationbridge.info, for ongoing collaboration in the innovation space.

Showcasing NWU's 3D printing innovations, NWU senior commercialisation specialists Ketlareng Polori and Boipelo Polori.

Showcasing NWU's 3D printing innovations, NWU senior commercialisation specialists Ketlareng Polori and Boipelo Polori.

Phil Mjwara, director general at the Department of Science and Technology (DST), said the first Innovation Bridge had resulted in 227 collaborations and 58 unique follow-on deals, with the 2017 event showcasing 100 exhibitors and providing an enhanced platform for meetings between participants.

Speaking at the summit, Science and Technology minister Naledi Pandor said: "We recently concluded an assessment of the first Innovation Bridge event we held, and it's very interesting to see how many of those companies have become viable entities. Around 28% of the ideas are being pursued and are continuing into a business, around 12% are shelved and about 5% have failed. The relationships formed in the Innovation Bridge space are leading to some success, which we are now able to identify and monitor."

Innovation Bridge 2017 plenary session.

Innovation Bridge 2017 plenary session.

The launch of the new Innovation Bridge portal, said the Minister, is part of the DST's ongoing efforts to create an enabling environment to stimulate technology transfer and diffusion. "What we're trying to do is set the stage for a perfect marriage. The Innovation Bridge is the space to bring them together, and we need to intensify our efforts to draw the private sector and the financial sector into this innovation ecosystem. The Innovation Bridge is the forum through which we are drawing a range of partners in the innovation space together. We also encourage innovators to collaborate with each other – and perhaps even to combine their innovation portfolios and innovate beyond their initial thinking," she said.

Showcasing innovations at Innovation Bridge 2017.

Showcasing innovations at Innovation Bridge 2017.

The Innovation Bridge Technology Matchmaking and Showcasing event was presented by the DST, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO).

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