InnovUS e-news 14th edition

Friday, 30 March 2012

InnovUS's plans for 2012

The year 2012 holds many exciting challenges for InnovUS: from patenting new inventions and research to establishing a social entrepreneurship project space.

"We are looking forward to exceed our achievements of 2011 - our most successful year ever. But we have started with a bang and have already received six disclosures by the end of February. Data from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) show that Stellenbosch University (SU) was the South African university who had published the most PCT patent applications in 2011, with another Western Cape-based university in the second place. This confirms yet again that the Western Cape is very active in the innovation space. Our PCTs have dramatically increased from 2006 to 2011, while the number of total PCTs from South Africa has steadily declined during this period," says Anita Nel, CEO of InnovUS.

"In 2011 InnovUS was also involved in the establishment of three companies and we sold our shares in one of our oldest companies in the second half of December. Last year eight of our 10 companies had a combined income of more than R107 m and our companies employed 194 people."

These results mean InnovUS, based on the standards set in 2011, has much to live up to in 2012. "But we are ready and motivated!"

The following are on the menu for 2012:

  • InnovUS will continue to motivate researchers to submit their ideas to them for commercialisation. InnovUS has already hosted two intellectual property workshops and continue to interact with researchers.
  • More focus will be placed on social entrepreneurship projects. This implies research that uplifts communities through various mechanisms using, among others, SU research that enables entrepreneurs in communities to generate an income. The Rector, Prof Russel Botman, places great emphasis on these social entrepreneurship activities.

  • Progress is being made with the establishment of the Maties Incubator, a launch pad for start-up companies situated on Stellenbosch University campus. This incubator should house its first entrepreneurs by the end of this year. The incubator will be established in the old furniture repair building behind the Engineering Faculty and will be further enhanced by the use of containers to create a vibey atmosphere fit for eager, creative minds. Both SU spinout companies as well as start-up companies that have not originated from the University will be welcomed in the new facility.
  • The Stellenbosch Idea Competition (SIC) is also a major initiative that draws to a close at the end of July. "This competition is all about motivating budding entrepreneurs on campus - staff and students alike," says Anita. To enter, one only needs to submit a short description of a business idea which will be judged based on the viability of the idea, the quality of the pitch by the team and also feedback on how the prize money will be spent. Each entrant will have the opportunity to attend four workshops presented by the brightest minds in South African business. Hurry up - the closing date for entries is  10 April and prizes to the value of R100 000 are up for grabs!
  • InnovUS will continue to host its successful Mavericks events where speakers from the industry will share ideas and tips with potential entrepreneurs. One Mavericks event has already taken place in March.
  • A new face has joined the InnovUS team as a full-time intern for six months. Llewellyn du Toit is a qualified pharmacist and holds a law degree. He has been seconded by Von Seidels Attorneys and will be working at InnovUS until the end of August 2012. He says: "I have been involved with InnovUS for the past few weeks and right from the start I was impressed by the work they were doing. I immediately became involved in their projects and was impressed by the way the strong points of the team members were emphasised. ...and in that way they are developing a young and creative culture. There is a dynamic interaction between all the people who are working here and this creates a fantastic working environment. I am looking forward to be involved with InnovUS for a long time and to form part of this team!"
  • Apart from the full-time interns, the 100-hour student internship project is a big success. For this reason the project has changed the number of working hours from 100 to 150 in 2012. Due to the success of the project, one intern, JD Labuschagne who was part of the 2011 100-hour internship programme, has even cancelled his plans for a gap year on a sailing boat to stay on at InnovUS!
  • A variety of IP workshops will also be presented this year.

Calling all aspiring entrepreneurs!

It's time to let your bright business ideas shine in the Stellenbosch Idea Competition (SIC), initiated by InnovUS and launched in February.

Developed to encourage new ideas and creativity in business, as well as to promote a spirit of entrepreneurship, SIC offers innovative and aspiring entrepreneurial students and staff the golden opportunity to showcase their brilliance. Prizes to the value of R100 000 are up for grabs as well as valuable mentorship support.

InnovUS and Nucleus, a student-run organisation focusing on promoting and advancing student entrepreneurship on campus, are co-operating to promote the SIC.

"The SIC is open to both staff and students at Stellenbosch University, and it encourages all aspiring entrepreneurs to submit any creative or innovative ideas that they think have commercial value," says Philip Marais, business developer.

"It's the perfect platform to put your best entrepreneurial foot forward and, with no business plan required to enter your idea, it's pretty straightforward to submit your entry. And then, of course, there are the ten R10 000 cash prizes along with incredible mentorship support and the opportunity to pick the brains of some of South Africa's brightest minds."

The competition runs from February to April 10, 2012, when entries will close. All entries, which will be kept confidential, must be submitted online. Your ideas can focus on anything creative or innovative – and, remember, no business plan is required.

In addition to that, once you've entered the competition, you'll be welcome to attend four workshop sessions held during April and May, which will be presented by well-known speakers on how to test the viability of your idea.

All winners will be encouraged to develop their business ideas in the supportive environment created by InnovUS while studying for their degree or working at Stellenbosch University.

For more information, please contact Philip Marais or 021 808-9063.

Get the inside edge on IP

Are you still in the dark when it comes to IP? The good news is that InnovUS now offers Intellectual Property (IP) workshops at locations across Stellenbosch University campus. The IP workshops are aimed at giving the staff and students at the University a basic understanding of intellectual property law as it applies to their work and outputs at the University. The talks cover the issues around University IP, patents, copyright, software licences, design, IP law as well as trademarks and their value.

"The workshops are delivered in conjunction with Von Seidels IP attorneys Erik van der Vyver and Ralph van Niekerk, who have been very knowledgeable in answering the attendees' questions regarding intellectual property," says Saberi Marais, business developer at InnovUS.

The regular workshops are offered every quarter, but department- and faculty-based workshops can also be arranged at no cost to the specific department or faculty. "It is amazing how relevant intellectual property management has become in the University setting, especially with collaborative research work between researchers," Saberi adds.

The remaining workshops for the year will be held on 18 April, 1 August and 19 October. "Staff and students are encouraged to schedule their time accordingly and spend a valuable two hours with us, enriching their knowledge and learning the basics of IP," he concludes.

For further information, contact Saberi at 021 808-9062 or send an e-mail to

New website for Short Courses

The Short Courses Division now boasts a brand-new website. The first phase of this website was completed and released in December 2011.

About two years ago this Division started consolidating Stellenbosch University's (SU) existing electronic systems for Short Courses and creating new Short Course and student registration systems. The purpose of this was to create a central, integrated management system to promote in a structured manner the development, registration, academic quality control, marketing and presentation of SU Short Courses.

The new website has a fresh appearance, new content and additional functionalities which the Division itself can maintain. Short Courses can also be advertised here free of charge. The new functionalities which were created are integrated with the SU Short Course registration system and central access control system and they include two key areas:

  • Information relevant to the public (and therefore potential students);
  • Information about policy and administration relevant to SU staff members.

Phase one of the new website is available at Only approved and registered Short Courses are marketed here under the auspices of SU. Phase two is currently being developed and entails the development of electronic applications by Short Course students and registrations directly from the website.

Researchers unveil a synthetic lung surfactant

Two leading Stellenbosch University researchers, Prof Johan Smith and Prof Johann van Zyl, recently announced that they've developed an innovative and inexpensive effective synthetic lung surfactant, named Synsurf®, which has the potential to save the lives of babies, children and adults suffering from respiratory and lung ailments.

"Pulmonary surfactant is a thin lipid-protein film that controls the surface tension at the air-liquid interface within the lung, thereby reducing the workload of breathing. Premature infants often display respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) due to a lack of lung surfactant resulting in detrimental effects on gas exchange," explains Prof Johann van Zyl of the Department of Pharmacology at the Faculty of Health Sciences. "Replacement therapy with exogenous porcine or bovine derived pulmonary surfactant preparations is today an established clinical practice. However, the manufacture of these animal-derived surfactants is expensive and furthermore pose a risk of transmitting animal-associated diseases."

"We're extremely enthusiastic about this new development, and the hope it offers to those who are afflicted with RDS - a serious and life threatening condition which affects both children and adults," says Prof Johan Smith of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Tygerberg Hospital.

The newly developed synthetic pulmonary surfactant could also be used in the treatment of hydrocarbon poisoning, near-drowning, HIV/AIDS related lung diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, adult respiratory syndrome, asthma, tuberculosis and severe acute respiratory syndrome. In addition, the surfactant could also be used as a carrier vehicle in drug delivery applications.

Synsurf®, the synthetic pulmonary surfactant, was shown to be as efficacious as current leading commercial surfactants when tested in vivo in animal models. Moreover, in vitro studies showed a physico-chemical behaviour non-inferior, and sometimes superior, to that of the natural animal derived surfactants. Plus, it's inexpensive and less complicated to manufacture, according to Proff Smith and Van Zyl.

"The lung surfactant of this invention is an entirely synthetic formulation, consisting of phospholipids and a polypeptide-complex that mimics an essential surfactant protein. It has surface tension lowering ability, drug carrier capacity and could be administered in liquid or in a nebulised formulation, offering several unique advantages over surfactants that are currently available. So we're certain that it will be of significant interest to pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare industry," states Prof van Zyl.

Following approval of Synsurf® by Drug Regulating Authorities, the surfactant should be available commercially in two years.

For more information, contact Anita Nel, InnovUS CEO, on (021) 808-3826 or send an email to

African Sun MeDIA – imPRESSive in 2012

When AFRICAN SUN MeDIA announced their new website in September 2011, authors and clients were introduced to an online portal where they could have easy access to all SUN MeDIA publications through an online store, keep up to date with the latest company news, and request specialised design and printing services.

Authors and companies in need of assistance with design, layout and the printing of publications, promotional and corporate material, can now easily find what they need.

The following unique value-added services are now available to website visitors:

  • An e-shop where SUN MeDIA's own publications can be purchased;
  • The Print-2-Order facility for online orders of printing and corporate stationery;
  • ASM's new publication catalogue (Autumn 2012) with information on all their publications;
  • A page with short biographical information of their authors;
  • Information for prospective authors (publishing process and proposal form, peer review process, etc);
  • Contact details and information for each of their companies and regions, and
  • A news page with information on book launches, press releases, reviews and media coverage.

Following the success of the new website, SUN MeDIA is now extending their services by establishing an off-site studio that will be ideally placed in central Stellenbosch to serve the immediate needs of local businesses and students. The first SUNMeDIA Studio will be situated on the corner of Ryneveld and Dorp Street, where it will provide design and prepress services to walk-in customers. At the same time, SUN MeDIA Stellenbosch will supplement its wide range of services with a newly acquired professional poster printing capability.

SUN MeDIA is also active on Twitter and Facebook, where interesting publications and events are discussed and disseminated, and friendly, personal contact with clients and authors is maintained.

Please visit their Facebook page
You are also invited to follow them on twitter

InnovUS readers are invited to visit SUN MeDIA on Facebook, where a competition especially for readers will be launched on  30 March and through which imPRESSive book prizes can be won.

Join us!

One of the world's leading  players in venture capital is sharing his knowledge with you!  Roelof Botha was present when PayPal and YouTube were established. He will share his views on Silicon Valley on Tuesday 10 April at STIAS at 18:00. Don't miss it!