Irish Tech Challenge 2024 kicks off

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 18 Mar 2024
Irish government minister Darragh O’Brien.
Irish government minister Darragh O’Brien.

The Irish Tech Challenge 2024 has been officially launched by Irish government minister Darragh O’Brien, as part of a visit to South Africa to mark St Patrick’s Day.

The Irish Tech Challenge South Africa, which seeks to foster partnerships between South African and Irish start-ups, is a partnership between the Embassy of Ireland in SA, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Technology Innovation Agency, along with implementing partners Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Precinct and Dogpatch Labs in Ireland.

Speaking at the launch, which took place at Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Braamfontein, Darragh O’Brien, Ireland’s minister for housing, local government and heritage, said: “I am delighted to officially launch this year’s Irish Tech Challenge and to announce the expansion of the programme with an increase in the number of entrepreneurs to take part.

“Ireland is committed to deepening trade and investment relations with SA. This includes the promotion of entrepreneurship among women and young people from backgrounds of historical disadvantage.

“Our partnership with the South African government on the Irish Tech Challenge reminds us of the crucial role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and inclusive economic growth.”

The Irish Embassy says that building on the success of previous editions, the 2024 tech challenge aims to accelerate the growth of South African tech start-ups aligning with the United Nations sustainable development goals.

It notes that companies in clean and green technology, healthcare, education, and water sanitation and hygiene are particularly encouraged to apply, as part of the tech challenge’s aim to address pressing global challenges, while promoting economic development and job creation in SA.

The selected seven start-ups will receive a range of benefits, including €10 000 each in grant funding, a curated 10-day trip to Ireland to access global customers and partners, Ireland’s top tech expertise and business acceleration, and increased visibility through support from the Irish and South African governments.

Says Hesus Inoma from Dogpatch Labs: "The Irish Tech Challenge offers more than a prize. It offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to catapult their business from the vibrant South African ecosystem, to a leading EU tech hub representing a leap towards international recognition and footprint."

Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, vice-chancellor of Wits University, welcomed O’Brien and reaffirmed the institution’s dedication to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

Vilakazi emphasised the Tshimologong Precinct’s pivotal role in nurturing start-ups, positioning it as a key contributor to their growth and development.

The launch event emphasised the importance of collaboration between governments, academia and the private sector in driving innovation and economic growth. It highlighted the role of initiatives like the Irish Tech Challenge in creating a conducive environment for start-ups to thrive and succeed.

Anneline Morgan, chief director for overseas bilateral cooperation at the DSI, noted SA’s dedication to bilateral relations with Ireland on science and innovation.

“This initiative underscores the two countries’ commitment to fostering innovation and driving technological advancement. Programmes like this provide a platform for aspiring technologists and entrepreneurs to showcase their talent, collaborate on groundbreaking projects, and contribute to the growth of tech ecosystems in both countries,” said Morgan.

“By nurturing a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, we are empowering the next generation of leaders to drive economic growth and address the socio-economic challenges of the country through science and innovation.

“South Africa's Decadal Plan on Science, Technology and Innovation typically sets out strategic priorities, goals and initiatives for advancing STI over a 10-year period. These plans are designed to complement and support the objectives outlined in the National Development Plan.

“The DSI encourages all participants to seize this opportunity, embrace the spirit of collaboration, and unleash their potential to shape a brighter future for the two countries and beyond,” said Morgan.