New consortium aims to assist start-up businesses
A NEW consortium that aims to address the poor record of growth and survival among SA's small businesses, particularly black-owned start-ups, will be launched early in the new year.
Innovation has often been described as a key measure of economic development. Scientific and innovation-based output is an important part of the Department of Science and Technology's 10-year innovation plan, which aims to develop SA's knowledge economy and boost economic competitiveness and job creation.
However, the majority of South African start-up businesses fail. "We were concerned that SA was full of ideas, but incompetent at commercialisation," says Roy Marcus, chairman of the Technology Transfer 100 (TT100) and The Da Vinci Institute for Technology Management.
The proposed South African Centre for Technology Transfer and International Commercialisation, also called a "solutions centre" - is expected to be up and running by next month, the latest February. It would be a collaboration between TT100, the US-based Technology Innovation Group and the University of Johannesburg. Prof Marcus says the idea is that each party brings their expertise to the table.
TT100, a division of the Da Vinci Institute, identifies South African leaders in technology and innovation and has an annual awards programme. Technology Innovation Group focuses on the commercialisation of ideas, helping businesses and research institutions to transform ideas into money-making enterprises, while the University of Johannesburg has facilities and expertise.
"It will be a nonprofit entity with a special focus on black-owned enterprise," says Technology Innovation Group principal Jim Dukowitz.
"It will also offer other services to make it self-sustaining," Mr Dukowitz says.
Prof Marcus says: "TT100 has access to companies, which can become teaching companies to share their experience.. People need to have their hands held through mentorship programmes. TT100 executives will help with that. It is the most critical support missing in SA."
The "solutions centre" will be housed at the University of Johannesburg, says Henk Kriek, deputy vice-chancellor for finance. "Seven companies want space in the solutions centre already, (and) in time (we want to have) as many companies as possible on the premises," he says.
Technology Innovation Group co-founder Dan Hanson says, "The idea in the US is that SA is the place to locate bases for the rest of the continent."
The group has "specialised tools to test the viability of an idea, global experience in creating a commercial mindset and access to opportunities for South African companies in the US", Mr Dukowitz says.
Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor welcomed the initiative, saying it could "use (the partners') experience to support emerging enterprises in the technology space, through technology, innovation and human resources". Speaking on the sidelines of the TT100 annual awards last month, she said the government wanted to bring its Technology Innovation Agency into the initiative.
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