InnovUS e-news 5th edition

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

National database to assist inventors

InnovUS and Stellenbosch University inventors will greatly benefit from the new technology transfer module to be implemented on the InfoEd system at the University. This module will offer administrative support for managing, among others, intellectual property and patents. Although the InfoEd system will facilitate effective research management, streamline processes and enable tracking of research activities on a national level, InnovUS will continue to advise inventors, facilitate the transfer of technology and ensure that the vast knowledge of researchers and inventors at the University contributes to the wellbeing of society as a whole.

According to Doris Peters, Intellectual Property and Financial Assistant: InnovUS, the InfoEd database and the new technology transfer module will enable the effective recording and monitoring of inventions, facilitating an easier patenting process. InnovUS will also be able to use the system to streamline the compilation of reports containing important statistics. These reports can be submitted to regulatory bodies and stakeholders.

InfoEd, also known as the Research Information Management System (RIMS) will be implemented at South African universities, scientific councils and government. Stellenbosch University is a member of a consortium of South African tertiary institutions configuring the system. The system will facilitate the management of business processes from the first announcement to the patenting of an invention.

The technology transfer module is an administrative aid and not a database of existing technologies and patents. Therefore, inventors will still follow existing procedures in cooperation with InnovUS in order to ascertain whether patents similar to their intended fields of research already exist. The module also offers the possibility of an electronic alternative which supports and speeds up current processes. It will be rolled out at Stellenbosch University early in the second semester and further InfoEd modules will be phased in accordingly. The Division for Research Development is responsible for the implementation of InfoEd on campus and will provide training on modules. A help-desk facility will also be available to assist researchers with their online applications.

Sub-modules are included in the technology transfer module. It comprises the disclosure of new technologies; the tracking of the development of cases; and the filing of patents. Stellenbosch University researchers and staff will have access to InfoEd via its staff portal. The system will potentially act as a central source of updated information about grants, research contracts, ethics, intellectual property, research output and researcher information. It will offer researchers the opportunity to market their expertise and network with other experts in their field.

Booklet helps researchers on exciting road

Whether you are a researcher wanting to license your technology or whether you want to start a new company based on your research, InnovUS can help you. This wholly-owned technology transfer company of Stellenbosch University has now published a booklet to help researchers on that exciting road.

“We understand researchers want to focus on their specialist areas and it is not always easy to bring their amazing and truly remarkable breakthroughs to the market. This booklet provides valuable information on key aspects of innovation varying from patents, business plans, company formation, bridging the gap between research and taking the research to the market, and legal and tax issues, and brings together the experience of leaders in their respective fields,” says Anita Nel, Chief Executive Officer: InnovUS.

Anita says they believe this guide will be a very useful resource for any researcher or entrepreneur considering the commercialisation of an idea. “The topics were chosen with great care to provide a broad overview and a practical foundation for innovation, but very specific advice will without doubt be needed for each commercial transaction. I extend a special invitation to our researchers and staff at Stellenbosch University to disclose their inventions and to create an entrepreneurial culture on campus. Be assured that our skilled staff at InnovUS will assist researchers to protect their intellectual property and to negotiate agreements so they can ultimately also reap financial benefit from their inventions.

“By introducing science to the market where it benefits our people, we become a relevant University that brings hope and contributes to the South African – and African – society.”

According to Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen, Executive Director: Operations and Finance, every innovation starts with a great idea, but actually developing and patenting an idea can be an incredibly challenging process. “With this in mind, InnovUS has gathered the expertise of a range of industry leaders and collated it in this booklet. It is our hope that you will use this information to join the growing ranks of our groundbreaking inventors and researchers.

“Furthermore, I would like to extend an invitation to Maties alumni who are leaders in their fields to become involved with InnovUS, either as business advisors, co-investors or board members in our exciting portfolio of spin-out companies. We have many new and challenging initiatives on the table and invite you to join us in supporting these ventures.”

The booklet is available online or in printed format at the InnovUS offices at 15 De Beer Street, Stellenbosch. For more information, please call 021 808 3826.

NioCAD takes top innovation honours

NioCAD (Pty) Ltd, a young InnovUS spin-out company, recently competed against industry heavyweights in the prestigious Technology Top 100 Awards (TT100). It did exceptionally well by walking away with the first prize in the innovation category and a second trophy for its people management.

NioCAD was established at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Engineering and started its product development in February 2007. It became an InnovUS spin-out company only ten short months ago, after developing NioPulse, the world’s first integrated electronic circuit design software. NioPulse focuses specifically on ultra-high frequency superconductive circuits.

Anita Nel, Chief Executive Officer: InnovUS, says: "InnovUS assisted with the management of intellectual property acquired through research and was also instrumental in the establishment of the spin-out company. We introduced and liaised with funders, gave advice regarding the legal aspects and provided interim funding before negotiations with funders were concluded. We are thrilled about NioCAD's award and see it as the zenith of our long association with the company and its people. It is a tremendous inspiration that one of our spin-out companies excelled in such a way."

The TT100 identifies South African role models who take their innovations and organisations to new levels of competitiveness through innovation, tenacity and a passionate belief in people. Entrants must be users or developers of technology and include a wide spectrum of companies from industrial and commercial markets in the private and public sectors.

Retief Gerber, Chief Executive Officer, leads NioCAD along with directors Prof Willem Perold and Dr Conrad Fourie. Mr Gerber says: "Initially we didn’t even know about the competition. We were nominated anonymously and then TT100 requested us to enter. Our entry entailed a comprehensive questionnaire which took days to complete. There were 26 adjudicators who processed the answers. From this information they decided for which category a specific company qualified and how they would be judged."

One winner and a few finalists in the established and emerging sectors were chosen in each category. In order to secure the first place in the innovation category, NioCAD was evaluated on its performance with regard to product, process and organisational capability. It was also one of three finalists in the category for people management, in which it was evaluated on maximising the effectiveness of its employees while creating a harmonious working environment. Emphasis was placed on mentoring programmes, staff retention, training and development, and incentives given in order to encourage staff to become a part of the innovation process. NioCAD not only received two trophies but also the right to use the TT100 logo on all its marketing materials and the prestige which accompanies such honourable awards.

The TT100 Awards was started in 1990 and is one of South Africa's most prestigious business awards programmes. It enjoys strong support from both government and the private sector. The Department of Science and Technology has mandated TT100 (a member of the Da Vinci Group) to celebrate South Africa's role models in science and technology. Any organisation registered in South Africa is eligible to enter.

Upgrade for short courses

Stellenbosch University recently upgraded its registration system for short courses in order for it to be faster and more user-friendly. The upgrade is also aimed at having specific control measures in place to ensure the academic quality of short courses. At the same time, new National Qualifications Framework (NQF) levels are also being phased in in accordance with the Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF) as published on 5 October 2007.

According to Carol Kat, Copyright Officer and Short Course Division Administrator: InnovUS, it became apparent that Stellenbosch University’s registration process for short courses was both slow and difficult to use. “The system is used for the registration of courses and should not be confused with the system used by students to register for these courses. We made certain changes to the system in order to ensure better control of both the academic quality and budgeting for short courses,” says Carol.

The new system went live on 23 April and further upgrades and changes will take place in future. The registration process is, in essence, the same but faster, more streamlined and more quality-specific. For example, certain built-in mechanisms ensure that a short course can only be presented once it has gone through the full academic approval process.

New NQF levels are also being phased in for short courses at the university. “Stellenbosch University is systematically aligning existing academic programmes with the HEQF,” says Carol. “With the implementation of these NQF levels, we are changing from an eight level framework to a ten level framework.” Carol explains that steps are being taken to prepare the South African higher education system for the implementation of the HEQF and for the adjustment to a ten level framework. “Stellenbosch University started the process in June last year and aims for it to be fully implemented by 2012.”

She encourages all coordinators of short courses to visit Stellenbosch University’s website for more information regarding both the registration process and new NQF levels. Alternatively, contact Carol Kat on (021) 808 2992 or send an email to carolk@sun.ac.za.

Eat smart with RenalSmart

RenalSmart is an InnovUS project which has designed a web-based dietary programme for patients with chronic kidney disease. The RenalSmart Nutritional Information System was originally aimed at non-diabetic patients with kidney diseases. However, due to great demand from dieticians, the programme will now be adapted to allow for the dietary management of patients with diabetic nephropathy as well.

According to Professor Marietjie Herselman, Head of the Division of Human Nutrition: Stellenbosch University, diabetic nephropathy is a complex disease which requires the simultaneous management of multiple nutrients in a patient’s diet. “The need exists for a uniform and simplified approach to the dietary management of patients with diabetic nephropathy. This programme is a web-based tool to be developed by Nazeema Esau, a Stellenbosch University Masters student, and will form part of the RenalSmart Nutritional Information System upon completion.”

Professor Herselman adds that the RenalSmart programme is designed for the fast and accurate planning of renal diets, primarily for the use of dieticians. It consists of two components, the first of which is a blog which allows interaction between users and free access to educational material, recipes and renal exchange lists which can be used for the counselling of patients.

The blog also gives access to the second component which is the RenalSmart Application, based on the South African Renal Exchange Lists. The application allows for a patient’s medical and clinical information to be entered and the programme then automatically calculates a dietary prescription, meal plan and menus for the patient. However, dieticians are able to make manual changes to individual cases based on their clinical judgment.

The RenalSmart programme reduces consultation time of dieticians, allows for more accurate planning of renal diets, and applies updated evidence-based scientific guidelines to clinical practice. It also delivers a more uniform approach to the nutritional management of patients and improves communication and interaction between healthcare professionals while allowing for ongoing research.

Visit the RenalSmart website at www.renalsmart.co.za for more information.

Keen new eye on business development

InnovUS recently gained another valuable asset in the experience and knowledge of business developer Saberi Marais. A research scientist who holds an MSc degree in Molecular and Cell Biology, he has also completed several commercial legal courses at Unisa and the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law. Saberi’s role at InnovUS includes identifying new inventions at Stellenbosch University and acting as a point of contact for researchers, assisting them in developing business cases and opportunities for their work.

“I am looking forward to this challenge because I am motivated by the potential opportunities of extracting value from some of Stellenbosch University’s key resources: its researchers, their ideas and their inventions,” says Saberi, who joined InnovUS on 10 May. He adds that his qualification from the WITS Business School’s Management Advancement Programme affords him an understanding of business theory across all disciplines.

Saberi started his career as a research scientist with a British biotechnology company based in Cape Town. There he was involved in research on the improvement of the efficiency of a TB diagnostic kit. Thereafter he acted as a technology transfer manager at the South African Medical Research Council’s Innovation Centre. His projects at the MRC focused on inventions with a general health innovation theme such as neutraceuticals, novel diagnostics and medical devices for which he evaluated freedom to operate issues, protected intellectual property, identified licensing opportunities and developed business cases.

On a personal note, Saberi says his exposure to entrepreneurship started from a very young age in his family’s business. Family ties are very important to him and he loves spending time with his wife Nailah and baby boy Zaahid. “I like spending time outdoors and enjoy kickboxing and hiking. I would also like to try my hand at painting soon.”