Innovus e-news 21st edition

September 2013

Maties move towards entrepreneurial future

Stellenbosch University (SU) is now the home of a brand-new business accelerator, known as LaunchLab, in the centre of its Stellenbosch campus. The LaunchLab, a proud initiative of Innovus, is the hub of all entrepreneurial activity on the SU campus. Besides being home to a number of SU spin-out companies, it also houses student start-up companies and external service provider companies, who will be on hand to provide mentoring and services to any tenants who require it. The aim of the LaunchLab is to boost entrepreneurship at the University by providing networking opportunities, mentoring and affordable rental rates in an entrepreneur-friendly environment.

“Universities world-wide are establishing business accelerators not separate from the university, but closer to the university’s knowledge generation. We ask ourselves what is the profile of students leaving our University – how are they positioned and how are they prepared for the future and the economy? By the time you get your degree, your entrepreneurial instincts must have been sharpened to such an extent that you can start your own business and make a success of it – creating employment for yourself and others,” said SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Russel Botman at the opening of the LaunchLab and the announcement of the Stellenbosch Idea Competition (SIC) winners on Thursday 1 August.

He added that universities do not only impact individuals, but are required to make a more positive impact on towns, regions and the world. “As a university we understand that we need strong partnerships with communities and industry to promote economic and human development. We are driven by knowledge and knowledge generation; we are driven by ideas and by thoughts.

“For a long time, Entrepreneurship has been offered as part of degree programmes in the Economic and Management Sciences. But in today’s world, dynamic and fast-changing as it is, entrepreneurship has become crucial in all fields, whether that is Economics or Arts, Engineering or Medicine, Science or Philosophy, Agriculture or Education, Law or Psychology, even Theology. In fact, more and more students start businesses while they are still at university, seamlessly taking it to the next level once they graduate.

“We have seen that here at this University, where there has been an explosion the past few years of initiatives promoting entrepreneurship. The Stellenbosch Idea Competition (SIC) is one of these, and it has already produced several success stories of Maties coming up with innovative business ideas and putting these into practice,” said Prof. Botman.

The SIC aims to boost entrepreneurial instincts and ideas on campus by giving students and staff the opportunity to grow their innovative ideas into prosperous business ventures. The competition provides a platform which allows entrants to receive valuable feedback in a supportive and entrepreneur-friendly environment. The aim is to create a “safe” environment in which entrants can dream big, without the fear of failure.

“This is in line with the University’s new Vision 2030, which is essentially to educate thought leaders for the future. A strong focus on innovation is a cornerstone of our vision,” Prof. Botman said.

The SIC competition includes a number of workshops during which entrants are taught how to draw up business plans and also how to pitch new business ideas. The nine winners of this year’s competition, who each receive R10 000 in seed capital to give their businesses a kick-start, are:

Jacques Marais, Coffee Reservations: Aimed at providing an electronic pre-ordering system for students at restaurants in the Langenhoven Student Centre (Neelsie) and offering restaurants an opportunity to market their products to students on-line.

Luca Baumann, Christopher Furstenburg and Dylan Verrezen, Specialised Branding Company: Aimed at providing unique promotional gear to businesses and managing businesses’ promotional activities.

Bruwer van Dyk, The Recycling Squad: This business will address the urgent need for the recycling of waste.

Derick Truscott, Jean Breytenbach and Chris Coetzee, Cuda: Aimed at improving productivity and communication among students through a community-generated social student application where students can get information about their courses and contact one another.

Pierre Bernard le Roux, Vetkuier: Aimed at supplying a web application with a mobile counterpart that will allow pubs to improve communication with their customers, and the application will also supply details on drinks consumed.

Jared Wesner: Development of a video lecturing system for schools with the option of portable minicomputing for schools without internet, or for those situated in rural areas.

Michelle Laubscher: A proposed peer-to-peer education initiative in education, with the target market being learners from grade 10 – grade 12.

Stef Coetzee: Aimed a decreasing electricity charges with his Humpback Pipe (HBP) solution that lessens dependence on grid power by using facilities already in place at the location where it would be installed.

Alexander Matthee: Aimed at decreasing electricity charges by storing solar energy as heat in solid materials (recycled waste, such as building rubble or shredded rubber tyres).

Profile boost for SU Short Courses

The Short Courses division at Innovus is on a marketing mission. A revamped website, marketing brochures and an advertising campaign have ensured that the wider public is made aware of the diverse range of short courses offered by Stellenbosch University (SU).

Over 400 short courses are currently offered each year by SU and short courses continue to grow in popularity. The role of the Short Courses division at Innovus is to coordinate, standardise and support the short course processes on behalf of the University.

“In November 2012 we launched our first official marketing initiative when we distributed brochures to schools, municipalities, libraries and guest houses in the Boland and Western Cape regarding the short courses on offer at the various SU campuses,” says Carol Kat, Head: Copyright and Short Courses. This was followed by an advertising campaign in early 2013. “We have placed advertisements in the career supplements of Western Cape newspapers, in the newspapers themselves, as well as in a public sector journal and an in-flight magazine,” she says.

The advertising campaign has allowed the Short Courses division to reach out to prospective and existing students, University staff, graduates, businesspeople and those working in the public and private sector. “As a result of our marketing efforts, we have had a significant increase in short course enquiries from the public and private sector,” adds Carol.

A short course is defined as a training opportunity that is presented by the University, but does not form part of the official, subsidised qualification and programme profile of SU. The total study time of a short course, expressed in credits, may not exceed 120 credits. Short courses are offered in a diverse range of fields, including agri-sciences, arts and social sciences, education, engineering, executive development, health sciences, language and communication skills, law, leadership and management, natural sciences, theological studies, sport science, and renewable and sustainable development.

The range of short courses offered by the University is determined by the various faculties, departments or centres that are responsible for presenting the courses. “Although this is a delegated function, the selection of short courses offered by these departments is usually determined by the market demand, the strategic advantage which they offer to the University and the role they play in community interaction,” explains Carol.

At the end of each short course, those enrolled on the course are usually asked for their feedback. This feedback is used as part of the evaluation process to improve the content of the course on a continuous basis. “So far, most of the feedback regarding the content, study material and quality of the course presenters has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Carol.

If you’d like to find out more about the short courses on offer, please visit www.shortcourses.sun.ac.za or send an e-mail to shortcourse@sun.ac.za.

Innovus unveils exciting new look

Innovus has expanded its services from being the Stellenbosch University’s technology transfer company to the University’s industry interaction and innovation company. With the change in offerings comes a change in the look and feel of the company.

“We are proud to unveil our new logo and corporate identity. I believe this is symbolic of our changing business. The new logo is innovative, dynamic and professional – exactly the characteristics Innovus wants to portray,” says Anita Nel, CEO.

Innovus still strongly supports researchers in the technology transfer of their inventions and all the accompanying advice and the company now also emphasises innovative solutions and the creation of an entrepreneurial culture on campus. Innovus has a wide variety of offerings for entrepreneurs and potential start-ups.

According to Monty Filter, creative director from BrandTree who has designed the new logo, the new Innovus brand communicates a global view and insights with a strong link to Stellenbosch University by using the dynamic oak leaves, an essential icon of Stellenbosch and the University.

To coincide with the new brand, the company’s website has been redesigned and re-developed and all other stationery and communication materials have been adjusted accordingly.

“We hope you like our new brand as much as we do!” says Anita

Stellar performance for Innovus

Innovus can boast about a stellar performance for the first six months of 2013. During this time the company has continued its transformation from the Stellenbosch University’s technology transfer company to the university-industry interaction and innovation company.

One of the highlights of the year thus far, is the 12 license transactions – across a variety of industries – that have been concluded. This is the highest number of licenses per year in the history of Innovus.

Other numbers for the year to date are:

  • Sixteen completed disclosures with an additional 14 being processed.
  • Ten provisional patents have been registered.
  • Nine PCT applications, compared to 11 applications for the whole of 2012.
  • 320 short courses have been registered and approved for presentation

“We are proud of our statistics so far this year and will continue our hard work and dedication throughout the year. Our results show that there is a big need for the services we offer – whether it is technology transfercommercialisation, or entrepreneurship,” says Anita Nel, CEO of Innovus and Senior Director: Innovation and Business Development at SU.

Solar success for SU spin-out company

GeoSUN Africa is a sterling example of a successful entrepreneurial spin-out company from Stellenbosch University (SU). The company was created at the end of 2012 to employ existing expertise at SU to deliver commercial services in the solar energy market. “The sustainable energy environment in which we function is relatively new, which lends itself to entrepreneurial thinking,” says Riaan Meyer, GeoSUN Africa CEO.

“We are fortunate to have three partnerships who each contribute to our success in some way,” he says. The three GeoSUN Africa partners are Stellenbosch University (through Innovus and the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies), the Slovakian company GeoModel Solar, and CS Africa based in Technopark, Stellenbosch.

“We received extremely valuable advice and support in the establishment of our company. I am sure it is more difficult to start a company if you do not have the professional support or partners that we have. Innovus, for example, helped to get us out of the starting blocks with advice, start-up capital and handling all the necessary company documents and related paperwork,” says Riaan, an ex-Matie engineering student.

“I have spoken to various people who have started their own businesses with no support. They had to fend for themselves and get advice from various sources – mostly other entrepreneurs. That is why I believe a business incubator – such as the newly-established LaunchLab on the SU campus – is essential for future entrepreneurs. We would love to share our recently acquired knowledge with other entrepreneurs and we will therefore act as mentors in the LaunchLab.”

To further develop his entrepreneurial and networking skills, Riaan will attend a 12-week course in entrepreneurship offered by the Louis Group Business Academy in association with the Stellenbosch University Business School. “It is offered in conjunction with a group of companies who believe in investing in the development of entrepreneurs in South Africa. It would be great if all potential entrepreneurs could attend such a course. Universities and other tertiary institutions have a major role to play in equipping future entrepreneurs.”

Riaan says the seemingly small, but practical, aspects of starting a business need to be addressed in some way or another. “I’m referring to things like how to manage finances, which computer and telephone systems to install, how your logo and branding should look, how you should market yourself and how to appoint staff members.”

With reference to marketing and branding, he says GeoSUN Africa operates in a small, specialised environment which means they can market to a very specific audience. “It also means a lot for our image that SU is a partner in our business. We also focus on attending commercial conferences for networking opportunities –the first prize is being chosen as a speaker at the conference.

“But no marketing can trump the delivery of good service to clients and offering your staff the opportunity to grow,” says Riaan. “We believe in goin the extra mile for our clients, as required by the nature of our business. This pays off, as we have a good reputation in the industry, especially with the current influx of international solar energy companies into the South African arena.

“As entrepreneurs, we need to be able to move out of our comfort zones, think innovatively and look for opportunities to convert ideas into business. We will make mistakes in this process, but as the saying goes: ‘It is fine to make a mistake, it’s how you handle the mistake that matters’.”

This is GeoSUN Africa

GeoSUN Africa was launched in November 2012 as a spin-out company that originated from the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies, with Professor Wikus van Niekerk as director. The company’s services are mainly focused on solar developers of various technologies, such as CSP (solar thermal power stations), PV (photovoltaic power stations) - both large MegaWatt installations and roof installations - and CPV (concentrated photovoltaic power stations). Their area of service is focused on Africa and the Middle East, but can be provided anywhere.

The art of the perfect pitch

PitchIN, an exciting student-driven initiative, has partnered with Innovus to further add to the value chain of the new LaunchLab business incubator. PitchIN has restructured as part of the LaunchLab Talk brand and will help to facilitate an influx of new ideas to the LaunchLab and will also teach prospective entrepreneurs valuable skills on how to pitch their ideas.

PitchIN was established by a group of six Stellenbosch University students after they had attended the SA Innovation Summit in 2012. “We were inspired and felt the need to give back to the University in terms of what we had learnt,” says PitchIN co-founder and Student in Residence at Innovus, Matt Pretorius. PitchIN was subsequently born, with the idea of providing a platform for students to pitch their ideas. Monthly pitching events were organised with entrepreneur Charles Maisel from the Innovation Shack and Mike Smit from Biz Fit facilitating the sessions.

PitchIN’s new location in the LaunchLab business incubator will help them to form part of the innovation and entrepreneurship value chain established by Innovus. “PitchIN plays an important role in validating ideas that can be passed on to the LaunchLab, where start-up businesses are incubated. The inflow of new ideas via PitchIN and the skill to communicate them effectively will add considerable value to the entrepreneurs in the LaunchLab,” adds Matt.

According to Matt, PitchIN will complement the Stellenbosch Idea Competition (SIC) by cultivating a culture of entrepreneurial and innovative thinking on campus. “PitchIN is not an idea competition, but it will serve as a catalyst for the SIC, which focuses on getting the best ideas into the LaunchLab. PitchIN, the SIC and the LaunchLab all collaborate to provide education, pre-incubation and incubation of ideas into start-up businesses, as established by Innovus,” he says.

Matt believes that PitchIN will remain a student-driven initiative, which has merely been restructured and rebranded to give students the best opportunity and value for their time. “Our key focus is on students, regardless of their ability as entrepreneurs, innovators or networkers. The ability to elevate one’s pitch is an essential skill to master and it can be used in any industry. However, as part of our move to the incubator, PitchIN will restructure and focus on supporting students, not only with igniting the flame of innovative thinking, but also with providing a complete value chain from idea to start-up business with Innovus,” he says.

PitchIN will continue to hold monthly pitching events with the aim of providing students with immediate feedback on their ideas under the LaunchLab Talk brand. “One of the main benefits of PitchIN is that it provokes you to think of an idea and it forces you to take the first steps towards making that idea a reality,” he says.

To find out more about upcoming LaunchLab Talk events, contact Matt at map@sun.ac.za, visit www.launchlab.co.za, follow them on Twitter @TheLaunchLab or like them on Facebook.

New role for Innovus CEO

Anita Nel, Innovus’s CEO, has been promoted to Senior Director: Innovation and Business Development at Stellenbosch University (SU). Anita will still fulfill the position of CEO, but her promotion is an acknowledgement of the extensive role Innovus plays on campus.

“Anita’s promotion is further confirmation that SU is serious about innovation and business development, for which the full mandate was delegated by SU to Innovus,” says Professor Leopoldt van Huyssteen, Chief Operating Officer of SU.

The expanding of Innovus’s portfolio is indicative of the SU’s endeavour to equip students, through their Matie experience, to enjoy a competitive advantage above other students in the market outside the University. “I believe that becoming involved in our innovation and entrepreneurship events broadens students’ vision whilst they gain experience supplementing their book knowledge. This is invaluable in terms of how they think and approach problems,” says Anita.

Innovus was founded as a technology transfer office in 1999, but has since expanded substantially. The team now includes a Division for Copyright and Short Courses, as well as project management of the football initiatives with a view to enhancing the profile of Maties Football. “The commercialisation of SU’s intellectual property (IP) has at the same time grown considerably and we now also offer a new type of license. We are also becoming increasingly more actively involved in the establishment of new companies in order to commercialise SU knowledge and IP,” says Anita.

Innovus’s responsibilities also increased significantly with the implementation of the new Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act. Innovus is also assisting more and more researchers to secure Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) funding for their research work.

“Innovus has been deduced from ‘Innovation at US’ (SU) and we are responsible for the commercialisation of research outcomes in partnership with inventors. Innovus has considerably simplified and streamlined the process involving the disclosure of inventions as well as patenting. We also offer researchers excellent support throughout the process,” says Anita.

The opening of the LaunchLab, a business accelerator, in August this year was a historic event. Innovus’s existing mentorship programme will be expanded significantly in order to play a major role in the LaunchLab. The student internship programme will also be housed here to give students greater exposure to young companies.

According to Anita, the University wishes to support students to enable them to accept new challenges and achieve success and consequently enhancing a life attitude of “I can!” “We want to see our students creating work for themselves and others, and not necessarily endeavour to secure bursaries and eventually jobs in large companies. And, above all, we want them to create success stories on and around campus and become a new generation of role models for our young entrepreneurs,” she explains.

SU has a proud history of delivering world-class entrepreneurs. Innovus now endeavours to provide support to the next generation of business leaders while they are still students, and to equip them to achieve success at an early stage. For the past two years Innovus has been providing students and staff members with a comprehensive entrepreneurship platform. A partnership has been concluded with the Frederik van Zyl Slabbert Leadership Institute and PitchIN (a student initiative) with a view of presenting Maverick evenings and other discussion sessions where campus entrepreneurs can learn from more experienced “mavericks” and can network with peers and role models. “This project will be expanded considerably next year, while our existing SIC (Stellenbosch Idea Competition) will be extended with the introduction of training programmes for entrepreneurs,” says Anita.

In addition to all the exciting new initiatives, there are also several plans in the pipeline. “We are trying to create the SU’s very own venture capital fund to be able to provide even better support,” says Anita. “We also need the help of local business leaders – also retired business people – to become involved in our mentorship programme and young companies.”

Please contact Anita Nel at ajnel@sun.ac.za if you wish to become involved in the entrepreneurship or mentorship programmes at the SU.

Hello and goodbye

It’s been an eventful period on the staff front, with four new staff members joining the Innovus team, a promotion and one staff member saying goodbye. Here’s a round-up of the latest developments at 15 De Beer Street.

New appointments

Dr Charles Marais – Consulting Business Developer

Dr Charles Marais is the former CEO of Wits Commercial Enterprise (Pty) Ltd, the commercialisation company of Wits University. He holds a PhD in Chemistry and is passionate about the use of computing mechanisms as foundational skills. He has more than 25 years of experience in providing both analytical expertise and thought leadership to senior and executive leaders in a variety of sectors. He has worked in the fields of academic science, alternative energies, communications technologies and IT, and has served as both a business catalyst and an architect on a variety of projects.

In his new role at Innovus, he will primarily focus on the commercialisation possibilities of the high technology innovations of SU researchers, with a particular emphasis on energy-related technologies. He is particularly excited about the large pool of excellent technology which Innovus is privy to. “Innovus is truly unique in that there is excellent management in place and the most trustworthy professionals in the country are mobilised for each technology case,” he says.

Stephen Middleton - Von Seidels Intern

Stephen studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Cape Town, where he also completed a Master’s degree in Engineering. He is currently studying towards a law degree at UNISA, as well as completing the requisite SAIIPL examinations to qualify as a patent attorney.

During his internship at Innovus, Stephen will focus on patent searches and patentability analyses, as well as research around these topics. He is very excited about the prospect of working with the commercialisation of intellectual property. “Innovus has a wealth of intellectual property in many different areas, ranging from biotech to mechanical to renewable energy. This, combined with a dedicated and enthusiastic team, makes it a fairly unique place,” he says.

Matt Pretorius - Special Intern: Assistant Project Coordinator and Resident Student of the LaunchLab

Matt joined Innovus in June 2013 as a special intern after the restructuring of the PitchIN organisation as part of the Innovus entrepreneurial programme. He will focus on implementing PitchIN as part of the entrepreneurial value chain within the LaunchLab. Matt holds a B. Eng (Civil Engineering) degree from Stellenbosch and is completing his M. Eng (Engineering Management), which specifically focuses on developing a strategic roadmap for start-up businesses to list on the JSE.

He wants to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurial and innovative thinking on campus and is particularly excited about working in the LaunchLab. “It’s awesome to be given the opportunity to be part of a legacy. Entrepreneurship can ultimately be the most powerful weapon to the University. Stanford University created the Silicon Valley… we could help to create the Stellenbosch Valley.”

Denielle Andrews – Receptionist at the LaunchLab

Denielle joined our team in the LaunchLab on 1 August this year. After matriculating, she studied Tourism Management at CPUT and went on to work in the tourism industry in Franschhoek. She’s no stranger to Stellenbosch, however, as she spent a year working at the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy Studies (CRSES) prior to joining the LaunchLab team. She is enjoying the new challenges which her position at the LaunchLab offers and is also eager to work on the Tera Term communications system in the near future.

When she’s not holding the fort at the LaunchLab, Denielle enjoys time with her family and spends most evenings at her church where she takes part in dancing, praise and worship, and youth activities. She also does motivational speaking for the pupils at Kylemore High School. One of the most daring things she has ever done is shark cage diving, but she adds that it was “a little close for comfort” and she probably wouldn’t try it again.

Other staff news

Carol Kat Doris Peters

Congratulations to Carol Kat on her promotion to the position of Head: Copyright and Short Courses.

Congratulations to Doris Peters, Senior Admin and Financial (IP) Officer, on celebrating 13 years at Innovus.

After just over three years in the position of Business Developer, Saberi Marais has left Innovus to take up a new position as Regional Business Development Manager for the Western and Northern Cape at the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). We wish him well in his new career.

Ex Matie’s digital game licensed to tech company

A digital game developed by a Stellenbosch University student has been licensed to InnoVartis Technology Systems, and will soon be available on the web, as well as the iOS, Android and BlackBerry 10 platforms. The licensing agreement was made possible by the efforts of Innovus.

MRBRB is a digital version of Morabaraba, a traditional cow herder’s game played in the rural areas of southern Africa. In the game, each player has 12 playing pieces (or ‘cows’) which must be arranged on a board to form groups of three (known as ‘mills’). Once a player has formed a mill, they are able to take an opponent’s cows.

Ex Matie student Tsitso Tlali grew up playing Morabaraba in the hills of Lesotho. He developed the game while studying towards his Applied Mathematics degree at Stellenbosch University and subsequently approached InnovUS for assistance with commercialising the game. “We immediately saw the potential in Tsitso’s idea and offered to help ‘incubate’ his idea by providing office space, legal and business mentoring, as well as funding,” says Anita Nel, Innovus CEO and Senior Director: Innovation and Business Development at SU. 

After a short incubation period, MRBRB was successfully licensed to InnoVartis, a technology company founded by technology entrepreneur Yongama Skweyiya, who is also a former Innovus staff member. The licensing agreement was concluded in late April this year. “Innovus was responsible for managing the licensing process and handling the negotiations with InnoVartis on behalf of Tsitso and the University. The process was aided by the parties’ common goal and understanding regarding the outstanding development of the technology and the commercial outcomes that we wanted to achieve.”

MRBRB now falls under uBi Gaming, InnoVartis’ gaming division which is dedicated to the development of digital forms of traditional African games. As part of the licensing agreement, Tsitso was offered a permanent position at uBi Gaming, where he now leads the development of all the games within this portfolio.

“Innovus is extremely proud that another one of our entrepreneurs has achieved success at such a young age. As a University, we have world class entrepreneurs and researchers who produce intellectual property of the highest standard. By concluding research contracts and licensing agreements to protect this intellectual property, we are able to work closely with some of the brightest minds in South Africa. It is truly a privilege to work with our entrepreneurs and researchers,” says Anita.

MRBRB is currently at the public testing phase in a web app format and had registered over 500 plays by the end of April 2013, says Tsitso. The mobile version of the game is due out by the end of the year. “I was fortunate enough to be selected by web FWD to develop using their new HTML 5 technologies, which I am using to build the gross MRBRB platform for iOS, Android, BB10 and Mozilla Firefox OS,” he adds.

The aim is to eventually commercialise MRBRB. “The team at InnoVartis has been marketing MRBRB to games publishers around the world. In April, they visited London to promote the game to high profile publishing platforms like Zynga,” says Tsitso.

“Innovus has been incredibly helpful to me. They provided the foundation I needed to get my idea off the ground and to eventually successfully license it to a leading South African technology company,” he concludes.