New initiative supports SA's grassroots innovations

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The Department of Science and Technology (DST), in partnership with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), has introduced a programme aimed at supporting local innovators to develop and commercialise their ideas and products.

The Grassroots Innovation Programme (GIP) targets innovators who require funding to develop and prototype their technology innovations up to pre-commercialisation.

In a statement, the DST says the programme is the culmination of a process which started in January, with a call for local innovations.

The call attracted 300 responses from across the country, and the DST will support at least 100 local innovators to develop their concepts through the GIP, notes the statement.

According to Patrick Krappie, GM for strategic partnerships at TIA, 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."

TIA defines grassroots innovations as those inventions developed outside formal innovation and research institutions, which aim to solve local challenges.

Through the programme, innovators will be linked to the relevant experts and advanced facilities where their innovations and 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 needed to commercially market their inventions.

Furthermore, they will have access to software support, research and development, intellectual property protection, quality management systems, and design and tooling machinery.

DST deputy director-general Imraan Patel points out the recently approved White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation strengthens the importance of the GIP.

"The new policy specifically states the national system of innovation should support inclusive development, including social and grassroots innovation. It states 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 and market access opportunities."

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