Innovus e-news 22nd edition

November 2013

Sowing the TIA seeds of success

The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) of the Department of Science and Technology has launched a Seed Fund which will assist universities to translate their research outputs into fundable ideas for commercialisation. “This is excellent news for Stellenbosch University (SU) as it allows us to bring our research closer to the market and thereby increases our chances of successfully commercialising our projects,” says Anita Nel, Senior Director: Innovation and Business Development at SU and Innovus CEO.

According to TIA, the monetary value of the funding is typically up to R500 000 per project, but in very special circumstances, the allocation of up to R1 million will be considered. Fundable activities include initial proof of concept, prototype development, sourcing of IP opinions, production of market samples, refining and implementing designs, conducting field studies, support of certification activities, piloting and scale-up of techno-economic evaluations, primary market research, as well as business plan development.

“In order to qualify for the TIA funding, projects which have the potential to be better presented and prepared as a result of the TIA funding, must hold significant potential for further investment. Potential projects must also hold a competitive intellectual property position, where registration is in the national interest,” says Anita.

Universities wishing to apply for grants from the TIA Seed Fund are required to appoint a Seed Fund Management Committee consisting of representatives from the University, TIA, as well as industry and academic experts.

The process whereby TIA funding will be obtained at SU is as follows:

  • The researcher must complete an application for funding, including a project plan,
  • Innovus will review the application and agree on a final project plan and budget with the researcher,
  • Innovus will submit the short proposal for approval by the SU Seed Fund Management Committee,
  • The applicant will be informed of the outcome and, if successful, the University will sign an agreement with the applicant.

The first meeting of the SU Seed Fund Management Committee took place on Thursday, 31 October. “At our first meeting we already considered 12 applications for funding. These projects have been selected with great care to ensure that the University becomes an exceptionally successful partner for TIA, and to provide the Seed Fund with early examples of successful application of funding,” says Anita. “We will be hosting these meetings on a regular basis.

“I’d like to invite all our researchers to approach Innovus with your ideas that require bridging finance to become fundable proposals or business plans. The Seed Fund is an invaluable resource in this regard and we look forward to a long and successful relationship with TIA,” concludes Anita.

  • Interested parties are encouraged to submit their business ideas to ajnel@sun.ac.za

Focus, partnerships and balance help SNC to grow

Two years after its establishment as a spin-out company of Innovus, there is no stopping Stellenbosch Nanofiber Company (SNC). And thanks to staff expansions, new technologies being developed and an agreement with an American marketing and distribution company, he is very positive about the future of his company, says Dr Eugene Smit, CEO of SNC.

“It’s going very well,” he says. “We have been fortunate to obtain good funding. This has enabled us to develop our technology further, as well as to refine our longer-term vision and investigate various commercial opportunities.”

A business model that works

The SNC team, which initially comprised three employees, has grown to six over the past year and a few more researchers may be appointed shortly. However, although SNC has started generating a small income, Eugene cautions that this does not mean loads of money yet.

“With a high-technology start-up company like SNC the initial focus should largely be on the business model. You have to determine what business model works and whether it will fit in with what you offer and to whom it is offered,” he says.

“Sometimes new technology such as nanotechnology is so new, the people you believe need your product have not yet realised they have a need for it. Therefore you cannot simply start building a traditional business. You have to focus on identifying people and businesses that realise they need your product and in what form they need it.”

Has Innovus opened doors for SNC?

SNC has always received good support from Innovus and the fact that Innovus as shareholder understands and supports the importance of identifying and implementing the business model has helped a lot, Eugene says.

“We receive valuable support from the University in terms of technical resources and access to certain equipment that a start-up company cannot readily afford. Furthermore, the academic and technical support, as well as the high-technology start-up company way of thinking transferred from the University to the commercial side, is invaluable. Free access to patent articled clerks for the evaluation of innovative developments and reviews of the patent landscape is also of great value.”

According to Eugene, many commercial applications are multidisciplinary. Therefore it helps to have access to experts in other, overlapping fields at the University with whom one can discuss ideas and investigate the possibility of a new application.

Partnership is the key

SNC’s long-term vision is to be the preferred partner in the development and commercialisation of nanofiber-related products and technology.

“As such, nanofiber materials are not usually a product – rather they add new, enhanced properties to existing products or serve as a new, better platform for existing products. That’s why partnerships and joint development are important to us,” Eugene explains.

And what gives SNC an advantage is that its nanofiber materials are not manufactured only in a laboratory like those of many other researchers – the company has the necessary high-output nanofiber production technology that enables it to produce and apply them on a commercial scale.

For which markets does SNC produce nanofibers?

The bio-mimicking properties of nanofibers make them ideal for biotechnology and medical applications such as wound dressings and as substrates for three-dimensional cell culture and tissue engineering.

The three-dimensional cell-culture products produced by SNC have several applications. Among others, nanofibers consisting of biopolymers provide the scaffolding necessary for cells to grow, multiply and ultimately form successful wound dressings. There are also many other biologically related applications, such as toxicology where tests are performed on three-dimensional cell culture rather than on animals to determine the effect of medicine and even paint fumes.

In the field of tissue engineering, SNC is collaborating with a group at the National Eye Institute in Maryland, USA that manufactures artificial retinal pigment epithelium to address and solve various retina problems.

The company is also involved in projects where, among others, it is developing catalyst material for fuel cells in the field of energy application.

“Ultimately our technology for the production of nanofibers is applicable in all the different nanofiber markets, as we are able to produce large quantities of fibers quickly,” Eugene explains.

What will ensure SNC’s sustainability?

“Balance. I believe sustainability is achieved through a healthy, balanced core, by being attentive and prepared, being open to good opportunities, and by maintaining sound relationships with our partners, investors and shareholders.”

According to Eugene, the well-being of his team is very important to him. “We are a small team who must work together effectively. Therefore we have to treat each other with respect, understand and support each other. It is also important that my team members follow a healthy lifestyle and maintain good relationships at work and at home so we can be balanced, inspired individuals.”

Eugene attaches great value to the term mindfulness. “One must be attentive and listen,” he says, “because although you have to have a vision of where you are going, the world is constantly changing. Therefore, as you discover and learn new things, you must be able to colour and adapt your long-term plan accordingly.

“People often think the CEO of a company plays a type of rock-star role,” he adds. “But if your goal is to make your company sustainable and successful, the CEO is probably meant to be one of the most humble people in the company. Such a person should really always be open to the possibility that his assumptions about the market or clients could be wrong or incomplete, and he should continually consult a variety of sources of information and talk to different people in order to get closer to the truth and to be able to adapt the plans for the company accordingly.”

So, what does the CEO of SNC do to achieve balance?

“My wife and my two children of two and four years old respectively are wonderful,” says Eugene, “and my balance comes largely from my family. I also believe in living a healthy lifestyle and go jogging early in the morning.”

Although he and his family live in Johannesburg, he is in the Cape two days a week. These are hectic days of getting up early, flying to the Cape to be in the office at 09:00 and often talking to overseas partners late at night. He then flies home the next evening to two children who have missed their father’s attention.

“I find fulfilment and inspiration in my work and my family. It is a high-intensity balance and it works.”

Business ideas take off during Acceleration Hours 

Have a business idea but need some guidance to fine-tune it? Then Innovus’s Acceleration Hour coaching programme might steer you in the right direction. Part of the LaunchLab Lift-Off programme, the Acceleration Hour programme brings young entrepreneurs in contact with a network of guides, coaches and mentors (all referred to as coaches within the Acceleration Hour programme because they have skills in a certain area that they are willing to coach others in) who are willing to share their business experience. A few entrepreneurs, mentors and coaches share their experience with the Acceleration Hour programme so far.

How does the Acceleration Hour programme work?

The Acceleration Hour coaches are part of the LaunchLab community and are experienced entrepreneurs with business skills to share. To get access to these coaches, you need to send a short write-up explaining why you want to schedule a meeting with a specific coach. This will be sent to the coach, in order to prepare for his or her meeting with you.

When you schedule a meeting, you can ask for advice on various issues, which can range from best practices for starting and financing a company to feedback on a particular aspect of a business plan, based on the expertise of the coach with whom you are meeting. Remember, you are not allowed to ask for funding or a job!

“So with Acceleration Hour coaches you can schedule one-off or follow-up meetings as and when necessary to help with specific areas where you lack skills. The LaunchLab also has dedicated mentors who meet with interested tenants on a more regular basis and they mentor with a more holistic view of the business and entrepreneurs involved. At present we have mentors working with previous winners of the Stellenbosch Ideas Competition (SIC) for a period of six months. Dedicated mentors are also available to LaunchLab tenants on request,” says Philip Marais, Innovus Business Developer.

Feedback from the participants so far

“The overall feedback from our emerging entrepreneurs in terms of the programme and their experiences with the mentors and coaches have been very positive,” says Christina Harvett, Programme Coordinator for Innovus’s entrepreneurship activities.

Most of the participants agree that the mentors and coaches helped them a lot with practical advice on how to adjust their business models, focus and approach to fit their businesses into the “real world”. They also found their mentors and coaches to be very approachable and easy to discuss various topics and issues with.

He got everything he expected from the meeting, says Alexander Matthee, a former Stellenbosch Ideas Competition (SIC) winner. “My mentor answered some of my most important questions just through having a conversation with him. He gave me a lot to think about and gave me valuable advice on the planning of my business ideas going forward,” he says.

Stef Coetzee, also a former SIC winner, appreciates the insight and experience his mentor shared with him in terms of his business planning and analysis. “I’m also very grateful for the manner in which my mentor treated me and for the time he was prepared to spend with me without any payment,” says Stef.

Wessel Pieterse from Ordercloud, a start-up business in the LaunchLab, met with two Acceleration Hour coaches and says he would not miss one coaching session. “The things I have learnt are invaluable, as the coaches' experience have taught them some lessons that we still have to learn,” he says. “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to get in contact with these amazing people.”

Currently working on two inter-related start-ups at the LaunchLab, Paul Kim responded that he got the most value from interacting with his coach, who acted as a relatively objective sounding board because he operates outside of your company.

“I got a good sense of what my coach does and vice versa, and I enjoyed the chat thoroughly. I feel that I’m still on the right track, but he had me thinking about some of the detail,” says Paul.

What do the mentors and coaches say?

A unanimous response from the mentors and coaches so far is that the young entrepreneurs attend the meetings well prepared and with a good sense of their business strategy and plan. Although the quality and viability of the business ideas vary, the mentors and coaches have found the entrepreneurs to be positive, prepared to listen to advice and open minded.

However, not all ideas are immediately feasible and some entrepreneurs need further guidance to develop their business plans and ideas into something workable.

“Although my mentee was well prepared,” says Pierre van Aswegen, one of the SIC mentors, “his business idea will need a lot of development and input from several related disciplines to bring his idea to reality.”

Tony Wright, partner at KPMG, who met with two founders of a start-up company in the LaunchLab, commented as follows: “Their ideas have good potential and are relatively well advanced.”

Asked about the most frequently asked questions he receives, Dr Ferdi Lochner commented: “Questions about developmental and maintenance costs get priority. However, there are also good questions on the technical requirements or the development direction of business ideas. The nature and scope of market demand remains a nagging question, especially in terms of knowledge products.”

Piet Taljaard, the owner of his own consulting firm which provides mentoring to small, medium and micro enterprises in the manufacturing and industrial sectors, has met with three students so far. “The questions I’ve received most had to do with what the next step would be, when and how a company should be established and how they should invest the available funds,” he says.

How to book your 60 minutes

Are you serious about your business idea, but need guidance from business experts who have been through the growing pains of a start-up business? Click here to learn more about and get access to the Acceleration Hour proramme.

Get involved

Are you an established entrepreneur who wants to give back to the community and become involved in the new ideas at campus? Please contact Christina Harvett at 021 808 9028 or email: cmh@sun.ac.za. This could be the ideal opportunity for you to make a difference.

Two VIP visitors in one week

Two public figures, one local and one international, recently visited the LaunchLab to show their interest and support.

Mr Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, visited the LaunchLab on Monday, 21 October to learn more about the hub’s initiatives, programmes and services for young entrepreneurs.

On Friday, 25 October, a Belgium delegation led by Mr Rudy Demotte, Minister-President of the Walloon Government and of the Government of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, also visited the LaunchLab where they attended various presentations. Minister-President Demotte met with Prof Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-chancellor of SU, as well as the key roleplayers of Innovus and the LaunchLab to gain further insight into the innovations, opportunities and other services emerging entrepreneurs have access to.

NIPMO boosts Innovus IP activities

Thanks to the invaluable assistance of the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), Innovus is able to provide optimal support to Stellenbosch University (SU) researchers relating to intellectual property (IP), patent searches and commercialisation, among other issues.

NIPMO began its operations in February 2011. As part of its mandate it provides guidelines on the interpretation of the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development (IPR-PFRD) Act and its Regulations, which came into effect in August 2010. These guidelines pertain to the interpretation and application of the IPR-PFRD Act (published 2012), IP ownership (to be published in 2014), local and offshore IP transactions (to be published in 2014), IP Fund guidelines (published in 2013) and incentives for IP creators (to be published in 2014).

NIPMO assists Innovus by providing funding for capacity development and also in an advisory role. “We support Innovus on a full-time basis, as well as supporting the 100 hours internship programme. We presently support Innovus’ capacity to assist with commercialisation within the office, and our ongoing support is geared towards supporting the Mavericks programme, capacity development and the appointment of a new technology transfer officer,” says Mavis Nyatlo, NIPMO Director: Advisory and Support.

NIPMO also presents regular ‘Commercialisation and Use’ workshops which aim to assist technology transfer offices like Innovus to take their technologies to market. “During 2012 and 2013 we hosted three successful ‘Commercialisation and Use’ workshops relating to animal health and nutrition, engineering for mining and agriculture, and clean energy through renewable energy-efficient technologies,” says Jetane Weyers, NIPMO Deputy Director: IP Attorney.

In addition, the annual two-week WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) NIPMO Summer School aims to provide senior students and young professionals with deeper knowledge of IP and technology transfer. The next Summer School is scheduled to take place in Port Elizabeth from 25 November to 06 December this year.

One of NIPMO’s goals is to increase the awareness of IP in institutions. “Increased IP awareness amongst researchers will, in turn, increase the status and highlight the essential work of the technology transfer office within the research community and, ultimately, increase the opportunities for the private sector to increase their contract research activities at institutions based on greater clarity of IP and IP ownership,” says Jetane.

As stated previously, NIPMO also provides guidelines relating to the IP Fund. The purpose of the IP Fund is to provide financial support to institutions, like Stellenbosch University, for the statutory protection and maintenance of IP rights. “Financial support is provided for a range of activities which secure IP rights for IP which was generated following a research and development activity conducted using public funds,” explains Jetane.

SU, through Innovus, has a very positive relationship with NIPMO. The SU IP policy is NIPMO-approved and the University reports to NIPMO on a regular basis. “We report twice a year pertaining to the status of commercialisation and the termination of projects, and five times a year on the funds that we receive for capacity development. We also complete an annual IP Fund rebate, which indicates our costs for IP protection and maintenance,” says Anita Nel, Senior Director: Innovation and Business Development at SU and Innovus CEO. NIPMO further provides SU with access to the Innography IP assessment tool, which enables Innovus to conduct novelty and patentability searches.

“We are incredibly grateful to NIPMO for all the support that they provide to us, both in terms of capacity funding, as well as advice pertaining to research agreements, commercialisation and patent support,” says Anita .

Mavis echoes Anita’s sentiments regarding their cooperation. “Our working relationship with Innovus is great. Anita and her team are always positive and they’re doing great work in relation to technology transfer. We also appreciate their support of our initiatives, such as their contribution to the WIPO-NIPMO Summer School,” she concludes.

Stellenbosch PBL releases new triticale and rye cultivars

The Plant Breeding Laboratory (PBL) of the Department of Genetics at Stellenbosch University (SU) is at the forefront of the development of triticale cultivars in Africa. The PBL recently concluded two new triticale contracts with industry partners with the support of Innovus, and also renewed another three contracts for an additional five years each.

“Stellenbosch University PBL triticale cultivars currently account for virtually all hectares of planted triticale in the Western Cape,” says Willem Botes, plant breeding lead of the PBL at Welgevallen Experimental Station. The PBL recently concluded the following two new triticale contracts with industry partners:

  • A new contract for spring triticale (US2014) was concluded with the South African affiliate of Barenbrug seed company. US2014 is completely rust resistant and well adapted to all production areas.
  • US2013 is a new spring triticale that is currently becoming commercially available. “A contract for US2013 was recently concluded with PANNAR, a local seed company with both a South African and African footprint,” says Willem.

In addition to the two new contracts above, the following contracts have recently been renewed from 2013 onwards:

  • A five-year contract with Agricol for AgBeacon (a spring triticale that is currently commercially available),
  • A five-year contract with KaapAgri for Ibis (a spring triticale which is used extensively for the production of silage and as a cover crop), and
  • A five-year contract with Overberg Agri for US2007 (also used as silage and a cover crop).

According to estimates based on the seed sales figures of the South African National Seed Organisation (SANSOR), between   40 000 and 60 000 hectares of triticale are planted in South Africa. About half of this is used as a feed crop by dairy farmers, while the remaining half is used as silage for animal feed, and as a cover crop in the wine industry. The royalty income from the two new contracts and three renewed contracts should conservatively amount to R1.7 million by 2017.

In addition to the development of new triticale cultivars, the PBL also breeds new spring rye. The Duiker spring rye developed by the PBL is currently being phased out and will soon be replaced by DuikerMax, which will offer improved rust resistance and a better yield. “Duiker and DuikerMax are the only two spring ryes developed in South Africa to become commercially available. Duiker is currently used to make rye breads for a respected local retailer,” says Willem.

The triticale breeding programme at the SU’s Department of Genetics celebrates its 40th birthday this year and it has established a very proud legacy thus far. Willem believes that the success of the programme can be attributed to a positive local farming community, collaboration at national and international levels, hardworking staff and students, and continuity in the programme. “Over the entire 40 years, we have only had three breeding leads in the triticale programme – Professor Rousselot de Villiers Pienaar, Herman Roux and myself. It helps to carry through a clear vision if your leadership remains stable. This is not an industry in which things happen overnight – it takes the better part of a decade to develop a new cultivar,” he concludes.

Top young scientist award for Prof Cornie Scheffer

Professor Cornie Scheffer from the Mechanical Engineering department at Stellenbosch University has been recognised with the prestigious AU-TWAS Young Scientists’ National Award. The award was presented by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) on behalf of the African Union (AU) and the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). Prof Scheffer received the award in the category for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation.

The Young Scientists National Award was presented to Prof Scheffer at the annual ASSAf Awards ceremony, held in Pretoria on 23 October 2013. Through the award, the AU and TWAS recognise an outstanding scientist who is living and working in South Africa and has a record of research publications in internationally recognised science journals. Professor Scheffer is the founder and director of the Biomedical Engineering Group (BERG) at Stellenbosch University. BERG conducts groundbreaking research in the field of biomedical engineering.

“I feel incredibly honoured and privileged to receive this award,” says Prof Scheffer. “I think the reason that I received this award is because I work with incredibly talented colleagues and students, who have made an invaluable contribution to the foundation of BERG and have allowed us to consistently offer good results.”

Innovus works closely with Prof Scheffer by providing funding, as well as assistance with the commercialisation of their research efforts. “It is truly a privilege to work with Prof Scheffer. We are incredibly excited about the work that he continues to do through BERG, and are elated that he has been recognised by ASSAf with this award,” says Anita Nel, Senior Director: Innovation and Business Development at SU and Innovus CEO.

BERG works on a range of exciting projects and is currently, among other activities, focusing on the development of a valve for a transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI). TAVI involves inserting a new artificial heart valve by means of a catheter. “It’s a very exciting, but also very complex project. We developed the valve and tested it in our lab. We are working with a leading cardiologist, Dr Hellmuth Weich, who is testing the valve by implanting it in sheep. We are currently still at the animal testing stage,” says Prof Scheffer.

To find out more about BERG, please click here.

Giving life to bright ideas

The Stellenbosch Idea Competition (SIC) is organised annually by Innovus, the university industry interaction and innovation company of Stellenbosch University. Winners of the SIC are awarded R10 000 each to help turn their bright ideas into real, thriving businesses and they receive access to a dedicated mentorship. This year, the SIC recognised nine deserving entrants. We caught up with them to find out what has happened since they were chosen as winners in August this year.

Jacques Marais: Coffee Reservations
Coffee Reservations aims to provide an electronic pre-ordering system for students at restaurants in the Neelsie and offer restaurants the opportunity to market their products to students online.

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
So far, I have spoken to another LaunchLab company that offers a framework that I can use with my application. This cuts months off of my development time. I have also started developing the iOS iPhone application and started designing the web interface.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
The idea started due to a lack of available information on restaurant products offered in the Neelsie. The purpose of my business is to provide a service that will make the information available to anyone for free. A secondary goal would be to build additional services on top of this, to provide additional benefits and to generate revenue.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in the future?
I view the SIC as a learning experience. I plan to launch my minimum viable product and see how it goes from there. Ultimately, I want to solve larger and more critical issues in South Africa and the experience I gain through SIC and the LaunchLab will enable me to take on these issues.

Derick Truscott, Jean Breytenbach and Chris Coetzee: Cuda
Cuda aims to improve productivity and communication among students through a community-generated social student application where students can get information about their courses and contact each other.

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
The team has made some steady progress with the development of the Android app and the back-end. Due to academic requirements at university, we put the project on hold at the start of term 4, but plans are in place to continue with the development as soon as the exams are over.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
To condense a student's entire campus experience on their smartphones.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in future?
We would like to start by getting a prototype out at the start of next year, so that we can start refining the product according to the needs of the students, lecturers and advertisers.

Pierre Bernard Le Roux, Vetkuier
Vetkuier aims to provide a web application with a mobile counterpart that will allow pubs to improve communication with their customers.

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
I built the initial prototype of my website during the June/July vacation and afterwards started signing up the pubs. I soon realised that my core idea was not well executed by the prototype and therefore I have developed new designs for the next version which I will implement during the December/January holidays.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
Vetkuier exists to show people where the best party/club is at any given moment.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in future?
Vetkuier will hopefully show what is going on at every single club/pub or party in South Africa (maybe the world) and will benefit millions of people suffering from the fear of missing out.

Luca Baumann, Christopher Furstenburg and Dylan Verrezen: Specialised Branding Company
This company aims to provide unique promotional gear to businesses and to manage businesses’ promotional activities.

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
We are currently negotiating with suppliers, doing market research regarding which line of products would be best received by customers and formulating a plan so we have a schedule. Our idea has few barriers to entry, so we are making sure we can always be a step ahead.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
To provide apparel that promotes events, as well as creating lasting brand awareness.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in future?
We hope to finalise arrangements with suppliers and launch our products.

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

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
I have had numerous interviews with businesses in my focus area (West Coast – specifically Saldanha, Langebaan and Vredenburg). The results were very positive as I was reassured that I will have the support of businesses in that area. I have found a large recycler near my focus area that is willing to work with me in this venture, ensuring a lower capital layout and running cost for both them and me. A test run is currently planned for December to determine peak time refuse and to determine what is needed to be able to process this amount of waste.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
This business’ mission will be to make a sustainable contribution to the community and a worthwhile contribution to South Africa. Employment and recycling are at the centre of the business, so the core premise is to make a difference in the lives of individuals and larger communities. This business will not focus on personal gain, but rather on providing better living standards for the collective good.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in future?
I aim to create jobs for unskilled people leaving school or people who have not had the opportunity to gain the necessary skills. I also plan to improve the management of our natural materials and contribute to a litter-free environment. This initiative will contribute to the eradication of hunger in poor communities by providing food in exchange for recyclable materials.

INDUSTRY CHALLENGE WINNERS

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

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
The idea has been moulded and reworked into a plausible solution, which will aid in bringing modern technology and an equal standard of educational content to South African students in a cost-effective manner.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
To bring high quality education to all students in South Africa, thereby providing them all with the same opportunities to succeed.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in future?
I hope to achieve the above stated mission statement, as well as establish a successful business and a name for myself.

Alexander Matthee
This idea aims to decrease electricity charges by storing solar energy as heat in solid materials (recycled waste, such as building rubble or shredded rubber tyres).

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
My idea was purely theoretical, so my first step has been to start building a prototype to test my theories. I hope to finish this in the December holidays as my free time is limited at the moment due to my studies.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
I will aim to provide a cheaper way to harness renewable energy.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in future?
My idea will hopefully help to reduce the effect of the dramatic electricity price increases we are facing in this country. Many people are already struggling and this could help them. Also, if this idea kept the Earth a little greener, that wouldn't be such a bad thing either.

Stef Coetzee
This idea aims to decrease electricity charges by means of a Humpback Pipe (HBP) solution that lessens dependence on grid power by using facilities already in place at the location where it would be installed.

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
My idea is more technical in nature, so I have used the opportunity to do the necessary research and development to determine how my idea could be implemented in a number of contexts.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
From the start of the competition, it has been my goal to do something that would improve the lives of others.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in the future?
I am currently in my first year, but I do believe that one can cause positive change in the world through hard work and honesty. I hope that through innovation, I can contribute to the success of others.

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

What developments have taken place with regards to your business idea since you were chosen as a winner?
I met with my mentor a few weeks ago and we discussed how I was going to put my idea in motion. I would like to target Stellenbosch High School. (I know a girl who will be grade 11 next year and she is very interested in taking part in peer-to-peer education.) I will set up a meeting for next year to get the head's permission and the teachers' support.

What is the mission statement behind your idea?
I want to create a peer-to peer education system that works and can be used in every school.

What do you hope to achieve with your idea in future?
I would like to implement my idea in Stellenbosch and from there on target all the other schools in and around Cape Town. Later I want to reach out to less privileged schools as well.

Matie selected as finalist in technology innovation competition

William Cloete, a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry and Polymer Science at Stellenbosch University (SU), has been selected as a finalist in the Step-Up Technology Innovation Competition. William is one of the driving members of the Stellenbosch Polymer Company (SPC), which aims to commercialise polymers with bio-applications. The competition, sponsored by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and Sasol, gives entrants the opportunity to have their technology innovations evaluated and, if selected, to win considerable cash prizes and gain access to various support programmes.

SPC’s entry into the Step-Up competition includes the envisaged development of permanent antimicrobial materials for potential use in water purification systems and the development of a reversible male contraceptive. William is a member of the research group founded by Professor Bert Klumperman, an NRF A-rated researcher and the South African Research Chair on Advanced Macromolecular Architectures at SU. The research group led to the establishment of the SPC which is being incubated at SU, with the help of Innovus.

“I feel overwhelmed by this wonderful opportunity and I am very grateful for all the support I have received in particular from my supervisor, Prof Klumperman. It seems like yesterday that I walked into his office to tell him that I was never going back to work, or getting any sort of job for that matter. Instead, I wanted his support to become an independent researcher and social entrepreneur in the waste management sector, recycling and waste water treatment,” says William.

Prof Klumperman suggested that William consult with Innovus regarding commercialisation opportunities and patents. “To earn a place as a finalist in this competition took a lot of mentoring from the Innovus team, and I would like to especially thank Dr Charles Marais, for his straight talk and advice – even via Skype calls over weekends. I am very excited and look forward to growing and working with Innovus in future,” says William.

The final judging process will take place in Johannesburg in late November.