InnovUS e-news first edition
InnovUS is the technology transfer company of Stellenbosch University (SU). "InnovUS has been in existence in various formats for the past ten years, which makes it one of the oldest of its kind in the country. Having pioneered technology transfer in South Africa, the commercialisation environment at SU has, however, eventually evolved into a clumsy structure. The introduction of the new Intellectual Property Rights Act (read more below) has provided an excellent opportunity to restructure the environment and we are now in the final stages of becoming a fully-fledged company with an empowered board of directors. The new company, InnovUS Tegnologie Oordrag (Edms.) Bpk., replaces Unistel Group Holdings (Pty) Ltd and encapsulates the innovation and commercialisation infrastructure of the past, as well as the Short Courses Division. Our policy dealing with Intellectual Property is also being revised to comply with new legislation," says Prof Leopoldt van Huyssteen, Executive Director: Operations and Finance of Stellenbosch University, also responsible for Innovus.
InnovUS offers researchers and innovators the best support to transform their innovations into commercially viable products.
According to Anita Nel, director: Innovation and Business Development, who heads up InnovUS, "our technology transfer service involves identifying, protecting (patenting) and commercialising intellectual property developed by SU researchers. Commercialisation can essentially be divided into two broad categories, namely licensing and the creation of spin-off companies. Licensing means that we patent an invention or idea, register it where applicable, and negotiate with appropriate companies internationally to produce and sell that product under licence from the University. Obviously the interests of all parties involved are taken into consideration during this process. When we license a product, we always try to establish a sustainable research relationship with the involved company. Thus we not only focus on commercialisation, but also on expanding the University's relationship as a knowledge partner."
InnovUS also helps researchers generating relevant business ideas to establish their own economically viable companies. "This is done through the incubator programme where we initially set up a virtual company with the researchers and support them to convert their ideas into a viable business. We always aim to create spin-off companies with an academic footprint within the University. This can be done when a researcher is involved in the newly created company on a consultancy basis and keeps the company abreast of new developments by supporting research at the University," says Anita.
"It is important for us at InnovUS to support researchers by creating relevant and economically viable technologies from their research and take them to the marketplace where they can be applied to the benefit of society."
As part of the restructuring process during its conversion to a company, InnovUS has undergone significant changes at a team level. Apart from Anita, other team members on the technology transfer side are Phindile Tshabangu who joined the team as business developer in 2009; Doris Peters, who deals with all our processes, finance and administration, and Venessa Williams who is the friendly face and voice of InnovUS and also manages administration. Yongama Skweyiya joined the team in May 2009 and is the Tektique project manager. Tektique is a joint project of technology transfer offices from the major SA universities and the MRC in order to promote technology commercialisation at these institutions.
One of the InnovUS spin-off companies, NioCAD, recently received a financial injection of R12,5 million from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and will soon open its own offices in Technopark. NioCAD, the brainchild of Prof Willem Perold, Dr Coenrad Fourie and Retief Gerber, all lecturers and researchers at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, focuses on the development of design software for superconductor integrated circuits. After years of research, full-time development started in February 2007 thanks to an Innovation Fund Grant of R8,1 million. Led by the project manager, Jan Pool, a former engineering student at the Department and with the assistance of the systems architect, Dirk Bull, an efficient team of developers took NioCAD from the drawing board to commercialisation in just two years.
The Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research Act promulgated in December 2008, has a direct impact on researchers at Stellenbosch University and InnovUS is geared to assist them in this matter, says Anita Nel, director: Innovation and Business Development. "We are currently revising the University's policy pertaining to intellectual property, and InnovUS staff members will embark on a road show on campus to inform researchers of the new Act and how it affects their work."
Since InnovUS is involved in supporting researchers to transform their research and ideas into viable business opportunities, this Act is of great relevance to researchers as it provides for the ownership of intellectual property rights in South Africa.
Published in the Government Gazette on 22 December 2008, the Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research (IPR) Act was developed to ensure the effective use of intellectual property resulting from publicly financed research and development that has been a grey area for far too long.
The specific objective of the Act is that intellectual property emanating from publicly financed research and development should be commercialised for the benefit of all South Africans, and protected from appropriation. For this reason, the Act provides for an enabling environment for intellectual property (IP) creation, protection, management and commercialisation.
The country's knowledge-generating institutions will now have clear guidance on how to best manage IP, as well as how to ensure that publicly financed IP reaches the market place and is used.
This Act is aimed at facilitating the creation of new knowledge supported by public funding and at securing this knowledge in the form of IP rights, including, but not limited to, patents with consequent economic and social benefits.
Department of Science and Technology
Nhlanhla Nyide, Chief Director: Communication
(Full title of act: The Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Financed Research and Development Act 51 of 2008)
The Welgevallen training and research cellar of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology (DVO), Stellenbosch University, is gearing up for expansion with the help of the DVO, InnovUS and university employees. InnovUS in particular is proud to be part of the commercialisation team of the cellar since it has obtained its liquor licence.
The cellar is currently being used as a training facility for undergraduate students, a research facility for postgraduate students and staff, with bulk wine also being produced commercially for external clients. The DVO maintains approximately eight hectares of vineyard, from which award winning pinotage was produced in the past. It will now be expanded to allow the DVO and Stellenbosch University to produce a co-branded range of wines including a "top end" pinotage called "Die Laan Pinotage", as well as a second range of more affordable red and white wines.
The wines will be used as corporate gifts, at University functions and be marketed to the University's alumni as well as the general public. Proceeds from the sale of the wines will be used to upgrade the current Welgevallen cellar's research and training facilities. The expansion will be to the benefit of the University, the DVO as well as the town of Stellenbosch. It will allow for the upgrading of the cellar's teaching and research facilities, and will also provide the University with the means to expose guests and the general public to its facilities and wine. As part of the expansion, a suitable venue closer to the cellar will be identified for wine tasting and sales. This venue may also serve as a general function venue.
Special offer for staff members
The DVO recently released two red wines produced at the Welgevallen cellar – a dry red, and a red blend under the Matie label. These are now available at a reduced price for University staff members. Place your orders by e-mailing email@example.com.