Innovus e-news 26th edition

September 2014

Waxing philosophical around the breakfast table...

On Friday, 22 August 2014 Innovus hosted a breakfast at which some of StellenboschUniversity's (SU) top researchers were invited to think afresh about innovation with Prof. Anton van Niekerk, head of the Department of Philosophy and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at SU. The title of his interactive discussion was "The Idea of Innovation and Knowledge of the Future".

The purpose of the breakfast was to gather researchers from various environments around a table to to introduce them to each other and to create an opportunity for them to inform each other about the work they do – for the purpose of identifying possible tie-ins and stimulating collaboration.

"On various other occasions we have seen how researchers who coincidentally speak to each other about their work realise that they can work together to solve a problem. A while ago, quite by chance, we introduced three researchers to a businessman. When the businessman enquired about their respective fields of research, one of the researchers realised that the other two could help him to resolve a challenge in his environment," said Anita Nel, senior director of Innovation and Business Development and CEO of Innovus. "We therefore want to create more opportunities of a similar kind so that researchers can come into contact with colleagues from other environments in an informal way and thereby identify possible opportunities for collaboration."

Prof. van Niekerk gave an insightful exposition on the rapid rate at which technology is presently changing, and showed how innovative research and ideas contribute to the tempo at which technology not only changes, but also improves. He contended that the future is the product of a dialectic between the genius of historic actors and orderly systems which condition (rather than determine) human behaviour. A lively discussion followed regarding some of Prof. van Niekerk's views and, at the conclusion of breakfast, there was a call for further discussion sessions and other similar events – open to all staff members. It was decided that more events would be arranged on an informal and social basis.

Keep an eye on the Boschtelegram for more information about upcoming Innovus initiatives. They will definitely not be at seven o'clock in the morning, but rather on a Friday afternoon!

It seems as if the career path less travelled in South Africa is that of the tech startup CEO, who can pilot a company to dazzling paydays, sell it and do it all over again in a next venture: the mythical creature known as the South African Serial CEO.

SU and UWC join forces to promote entrepreneurship

The LaunchLab is an initiative of Innovus, Stellenbosch University's Technology Transfer and Innovation Company, that allows entrepreneurs to accelerate their businesses to a new level. In September 2014, the LaunchLab will offer you a second opportunity this year to pitch your business idea and stand a chance to win your share of R80 000 in seed funding in its Pitching Den.

Stellenbosch University has joined forces with the University of the Western Cape to make the LaunchLab's Pitching Den even bigger and better this time around. The Pitching Den, which forms part of the Microsoft BizSpark sponsored LaunchLab Ideas programme, now reaches three university campuses – Stellenbosch University, the University of the Western Cape, and the University of Cape Town - where pitching venues will be available for aspiring entrepreneurs.

This collaboration between Stellenbosch University and the University of the Western Cape is a combined effort to formally promote entrepreneurship among their respective students. "Such collaboration, enhances the trust of industry and the government to invest in our entrepreneurs and their businesses. When we take hands to jointly look after our emerging business leaders, we can achieve far more than pursuing smaller individual efforts and create much stronger networks and results. Consequently, we will attract the best students and researchers to the Western Cape which becomes an innovation region in which our own spin-off companies will flourish," says Anita Nel, CEO of Innovus.

Douglas Sanyahumbi, Director of the University of Western Cape's Technology Transfer Office comments further that "The entrepreneurial environment thrives on networks and so, as we grow and foster a strong culture of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Western Cape, we are excited about our collaboration with the LaunchLab and the opportunities it offers aspiring entrepreneurs. We look forward to seeing this and other collaborative initiatives extend across all universities in the Western Cape."

The pitching will kick off at the University of the Western Cape from 16 - 18 September 2014 before moving on to the University of Cape Town from 23 - 25 September 2014 and concluding at Stellenbosch University from 30 September – 2 October 2014.

Participants can pitch general business ideas to win seed funding sponsored by the Western Cape Government, the IDC and Business Partners or take part in one of the sponsored challenges outlined below.


Alchemy-A (EMSS) Challenge

Develop a disruptive software or electronics idea that will provide a technology solution that will aid economic development in Stellenbosch and help to make it a Smart City.

Deloitte Challenge

Develop a social change enterprise designed to make a positive and sustainable impact on any of the vulnerable communities of Stellenbosch.

Transaction Challenge

Develop a business idea in the electronic payment/encryption/transactions space.

WWF Challenge

Develop a business idea for an innovative technology/service/process that can substantially contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions or enable energy access through a sustainable clean energy solution.

Even though the Pitching Den will take place at universities, the programme is not only open to students, but to everyone.

Don't miss this opportunity to make your business idea a reality - book your pitching slot today. For more information on the LaunchLab's Pitching Den or to sign up visit or email

LAUNCHLAB UPDATE: construction begins, exciting new tenants join

Construction started in July 2014 on the long-awaited Nedbank LaunchLab in the Maintenance Building of Stellenbosch University in Hammanshand Road, Stellenbosch. Although building started slightly more than a month behind schedule, the contractor has committed to sticking to the original schedule, which will see the LaunchLab team and the current LaunchLab companies moving into the new facility in February 2015.

The LaunchLab is a business incubator with the vision of developing thriving entrepreneurial communities on university campuses in the Western Cape by accelerating these communities of entrepreneurs to a new level. The LaunchLab offers various programmes for student entrepreneurs, as well as non-university start-ups. More details are available on the LaunchLab website (

The building project entails the refurbishment of a warehouse with a floor space of about 1 200 m2. The project will cost close to R14.5 million. The refurbishment has been made possible thanks to generous contributions from the DTI Incubation Support Programme, Nedbank and Stellenbosch University. The old warehouse, which is situated next to Stellenbosch University's Facilities Management and IT buildings, will be transformed into a dynamic business incubation space with dedicated offices, meeting rooms and a central hot seat area. The LaunchLab will, however, not only cater for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) businesses. Two workshop or laboratory areas will allow start-ups with an electrical, mechanical or biotechnology focus to also make the LaunchLab their new home.

Companies in the LaunchLab will be able to choose between using their own communal kitchen or a funky on-site coffee shop. The coffee shop will also offer a great meeting point for outside visitors due to the ample parking available, a highly prized commodity in Stellenbosch. The LaunchLab will also have a bicycle shed for those who prefer to use Matie bikes or their own bicycles to get around campus.

Clockwork Acorn – a LaunchLab success story

In 2013 three gaming researchers at Stellenbosch University's Media Lab finished their studies and decided to pursue their passion for game development. The result: Clockwork Acorn was born. Francois, Hilgard and Leon joined the LaunchLab in the beginning of 2014 with aplan to generate at least three games by the end of the year. If they could sell at least 6 000 copies of each game, Clockwork Acorn would be sustainable.

On 16 May 2014 they did a soft-launch for their first game, Monsters and Medicines, which received a good review from an online platform named Gaming on Linux. They instantly sold four pre-order copies of the game, but after three months of no additional sales the team decided, in true LaunchLab fashion, to pivot their business strategy. Their strategy had been to spend all their time on developing excellent games and included little promotion of their products. Their new strategy is to focus on creating as many prototype games as possible and getting those prototypes into the market as quickly as possible.

The space provided by the LaunchLab has offered them great value and has broadened their entrepreneurial networks. "The people that we meet through the LaunchLab's channels will definitely play a critical part in our growth moving forward. We see these people as great leads for our future" says co-founder Francois van Niekerk. Visit for more information about this exciting new company.

  • Start-up businesses or coffee shop owners interested in renting space in the new LaunchLab facility are invited to send an e-mail to or phone Denielle Andrews on 021 808 9494.

A place for developers to share ideas

Stellenbosch has a thriving technical entrepreneurial environment. This innovation is fuelled by a group of dynamic software engineers. This was the driving force behind the formation of the Stellenbosch Software Developers Group (SSDG). The SSDG provides a space for software developers to get together, share ideas and collaborate.

Register on the SSDG Meetup group at

Energy-efficient vehicle aims to take part in Shell Eco-Marathon

Eight of the twelve team members on the photo: Standing from the left: Tian van Tonder, Bartho Horn, Felix Kranz, Dr Danie Els, Dr Peter Jan Randewijk and Christian Peters. In front is Gert Oosthuizen and Tanweer Mahomed.

The integrated electric hub motor

The front open view of the vehicle

A team of lecturers and students from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering are zealously busy designing and building an energy-efficient vehicle for the Shell Eco-Marathon (SEM). The team will soon participate locally and hopefully next year in May in Rotterdam.

"The Shell Eco-marathon challenges student teams worldwide to design, build and test vehicles that will travel further on less energy," said Dr Peter Jan Randewijk from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. "It is not about who drives fastest or who crosses the finishing line first. It is about better solutions for making transport more energy-efficient and simultaneously decreasing the impact on the environment."

The competition started in 1939, when employees of Shell in the USA made a friendly bet on who can drive furthest with the same amount of fuel. Since then it has extended to two other continents, Europe and Asia, and now also includes a variety of energy types, namely conventional petrol, diesel, biofuel, natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells and electrical batteries.

There are two classes. In the Prototype Class, the focus is on maximum energy-efficiency, with driver comfort taking a backseat. The Urban Concept Class encourages more practical designs. "Our battery-driven vehicle falls in the Prototype Class and will have two wheels at the front and one at the back. The vehicle's electrical powering system consists of an ironless, permanent magnet synchronous motor, which will be integrated with the power electronic converter in the hub of the back carbon fibre disc type 20" wheel. The direct powering of the back wheel, without any mechanical linkage, aims to maximise the total efficiency of the drivetrain," explained Dr Randewijk.

"This ironless, permanent magnet synchronous motor stems from my PhD work with the first prototype built and tested by Gert Oosthuizen last year for his final year project. With the help of Innovus, we were able to preliminary patent the motor this year. This enabled us to obtain funding from the Technology Innovation Agency for the further development and optimisation of the motor, which will form part of Gert's MEng. With the research project, we will also look at other possible applications of the electrical machine, for example for small wind generators, electrical bicycles, scooters, golf carts, etc.."

The SEM team, consisting of mechanical, mechatronic and electrical students and lecturers, was composed from enthusiastic and inspired members. Each team member has an important role to play: Felix Cranz is responsible for the chassis and steering system and Gert Oosthuizen for designing the energy-efficient, light hub motor powering the vehicle. Christian Peters focuses on aerodynamics and Izandre Ras looks at specification assessment and system integration as well as a driver information system that passes information via the 'CAN bus' from the battery and power electronic converter to the driver, with recommendations on the ideal driving strategy. The power electronics of the motor is the responsibility of Anton Treurnicht and Tian van Tonder is designing the track simulator. Bartho Horn must ensure that the lithium-ion cells are kept in check.The petite Tanweer Mahomed is the driver of the vehicle. The two lecturers in the team, Dr Peter Jan Randwijk and Dr Danie Els, respectively supervise the electrical and electronic, and the mechanical aspects of the project. The team is supported by Candice Murray, their liaison officer and fundraiser, and Martin Visser, who maintains the webpage.

"Because there is not an Africa competition yet, a mini-competition will take place in October at Kayalami, organised by the University of Johannesburg," said Dr Randewijk. "I don' t know if we will be ready by then, but we are aiming high and would like to participate in Rotterdam SEM in May next year. We are going to make everything ourselves. Aeronteck, who are carbon fibre specialists, is sponsoring the carbon fibre resin for the motor and Ansys is sponsoring the simulation software. We are planning to get more sponsors on board and improve the old model every year by adding or redesigning something that would increase the overall efficiency."

*Article originally published in INGligting, Edition 35 (3)

State-of-the-art mini football field unveiled at Lentelus

A brand-new, solar-powered mini football field was opened at Lentelus in Stellenbosch on 8 July 2014. The field was unveiled by the Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of The Netherlands, Ms Lilianne Ploumen, in honour of the late Professor Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, who passed away on 28 June.

"Prof. Botman was the driving force behind the development of soccer at the University. To that end, he partnered with the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) and Dutch soccer club PEC Zwolle," Minister Ploumen said. "It is with sadness that we will not meet him here, as planned."

The minister spoke about how the field will help the local communities, especially women, as empowerment programmes for women through sport are a special interest of hers. "The field will enable the youth of Stellenbosch to further develop their talents. As we see these ambitious and enthusiastic young players one understands why the KNVB wants to get involved with these youngsters." She then proceeded to open the field by kicking a soccer ball to one of the young girls on the field.

The football field is one of the initiatives of the Stellenbosch University (SU) football development programme which is managed by Innovus. Through this programme, Innovus aims to invest in the promotion and advancement of football in the Stellenbosch region, and the creation of an expert football environment.

The facility was made possible by the university's partners and sponsors PEC Zwolle, the official international football partner of SU, the KNVB, Philips and Greenfields. The 5v5 (5 players versus 5 players) football pitch will benefit from the installation of four solar-powered floodlights from Philips, thereby extending the use of the facility into the evening hours. The artificial turf for the field was donated by Greenfields. An additional four to six light centres are to be installed in the broader Stellenbosch community.

"The programme aims to establish the building blocks of football development in the region and to nurture and develop talented players. In cooperation with the Local Football Association (LFA), we want to focus on holistic, inclusive sport and the development of human potential, which will include the development of players, match officials, coaches and sport administrators," said Ms Anita Nel, CEO of Innovus.

According to Nel, the installation of these light centres enables and supports the KNVB's World Coaches programme worldwide. Since the start of the World Coaches programme in 2009, the KNVB has trained over 3 800 coaches in 15 countries - including coaches at Stellenbosch and in the surrounding communities. "It goes without saying that better coaches and coaching methods play a major role in the development of football talent. We are extremely proud of this new 5v5 football pitch and believe that the local players will benefit from it – and also enjoy playing on the pitch!"

The pitch is already fully operational and being put to good use. High performance teams train on it during the week and local under-9 teams use it for matches on Saturdays.

US researcher claims top award at Women in Science ceremony

Professor Marina Rautenbach, a professor in Biochemistry at Stellenbosch University, was honoured as an outstanding female scientist by The Department of Science and Technology (DST) on 15 August. She was named as joint winner in the Distinguished Woman Scientist (Natural Sciences and Engineering) category at the 2014 South African Women in Science Awards ceremony. The DST hosts these awards annually to reward outstanding female scientists and researchers, and to encourage younger women to follow in their footsteps.

"It is obviously a tremendous honour to be recognised, both for myself and my students' research, but it also comes with the responsibility to continue with a greater focus to be a role model and motivator for young female students and researchers," Prof. Rautenbach said.

She was nominated for this award by Innovus as her work is highly regarded in the general international research community. As a researcher, she is rated in the top 7.5% percentile of the million-plus international researcher community on ResearchGate.

Prof. Rautenbach's research focuses on antimicrobial peptides, which are regarded as "green" antibiotics. Antimicrobial peptides are the most abundant antibiotics in living organisms and there is virtually no resistance against them. These natural peptide antibiotics are exceptional candidates for eco-friendly, natural antimicrobials, and are also regarded as the next generation of antibiotics, as increasing resistance has built up against all other antibiotics currently available.

Prof. Rautenbach discovered that a certain group of peptide antibiotics, the tyrocidines, produced by an ancient soil bacterium, have the potential to be developed as an antimalarial and could be used in the food industry, particularly against a bacterium known as Listeria moocytogenes, which can cause lethal food poisoning. The tyrocidines, regarded as the forgotten antibiotics, once formed part of the first topical antibiotics in clinical use before penicillin started to dominate the antibiotic scene. In 1998 Prof. Rautenbach founded the BIOPEP Peptide Group. One of the most exciting findings of the group thus far is that tyrocidines can be used as eco-friendly natural antifungals against a variety of fungi that cause plant diseases and post-harvest infections.

Tyrocidines also have numerous applications in the scientific and biotechnological industry, agriculture, food and beverage industry, air and water filtration, leather and paper industries, cosmetic and skin health industries, dental care and medicine. Based on these potential applications, BIOPEP received a R3.2 million grant from the Development Bank of Southern Africa for the development of the tyrocidines as part of a Green Fund Project. BIOPEP is currently the only facility in South Africa with the capability to produce synthetic peptides for industry and other researchers, and is in the process of becoming a fully-fledged spin-off company, with the continued assistance of Innovus.