What we do at Innovus is not a job - it is a privilege - and 2018 has been a rewarding year for all of us. We have watched some great companies grow, while others have spun-out successfully. We have seen massive amounts of disclosures, some amazing innovations that are set to shake the foundations of the world and met people that are even more remarkable in person than they are on LinkedIn. This is what we live for! And, so, this is a top-level review of our lives in 2018.
We live to build: Signing memorandums of incorporation is always cause for celebration. This year we have incorporated five different, exceptional companies, all of whom were a mere spark of imagination a few years (or months) ago. It is incredible to see how far they have come, and the work that they are doing. We could not be prouder! Here they are, as well as a short update on what has been going on within each:
- CubeSpace, our local CubeSat rocket scientists. They have started three separate constellation missions, one of which will form the largest CubeSat IoT ever built. They have also developed a joint product with a strategic partner, which is garnering all kinds of international attention from other partners and investors. All of this will be amplified by their new Operations Manager, and their new production facility, which will be completed ahead of schedule
- GeoSmart helps predict the future by using advanced space and geospatial technologies (such as earth observation and machine learning) to track ‘things’, like people, resources and phenomena, and model future scenarios
- Sein Media, one of the best-equipped (both human and technological) recording and composing studios, who are doing incredible things for movie scores and artists, locally and internationally. Due to the insight and planning of the multi-functional team, they provide a world-class, award-winning service at South African prices.
- SharkSafe Barriers, who simultaneously make the oceans safer for our bathers and our sharks, by providing a more innovative, less costly and a far more efficient solution to old-school ‘solutions’. Their magnetic deterrents anchored to the ocean floor and mimicing kelp forest, which sharks are unwilling to swim through, have just passed their robustness and buoyancy tests, as well as one of the strongest storms recorded in the Gansbaai area. Festival Bay in Dubai are currently reviewing a proposal for installation, based on the amazing work the team has done so far.
- SurgiTrack is a diagnostic triage system, developed by Dr Dedan Opondo. SurgiTrack replaces manual theatre booking procedures with an electronic, web-based platform, which also tracks consumables, surgeons’ times, and theatre productivity, and was so impressive in its early stages, that it received finding from the TIA Seed Fund. The software is running smoothly at Tygerberg’s Department of Urology but it does have many applications in any medical practice. There is also another notable spin-out company who is making the healthcare world move faster.
- AxioVR was only founded a few months ago, but is doing amazing things. The team uses state-of-the-art biofeedback devices, virtual reality headsets and an incredibly detailed VR world to help desensitise people to the objects and aspects that terrify them (heights, spiders, clowns, etc.), and then also study the inner workings of fear. So real are these worlds they create that they have found paying clients in other researchers, scientists and even commercial companies, like Heineken, who AxioVR has created a fear-based game for.
As companies grow and expand upwards, so do the amount of disclosures Innovus receives. In last year’s newsletter, we proudly boasted about 30 new disclosures – well, we are up 66% from that, ending this year with a total of 50 disclosures, and four of our companies are already paying dividends!
We live to modernise:
The HB Thom theatre has been an icon in Stellenbosch for half a century, which means it was starting to look a little long in the tooth… Facilities Management at Stellenbosch University recently upgraded the theatre in its entirety, adding new lighting and technology, overhauling the acoustics and seating, adding a number of functional new areas (including a foyer and renaming it the Adam Small Theatre Complex - after the struggle poet, lecturer, writer and director who made such an impact on our country. The revitalised Complex has proven to be a smash hit with theatre lovers, conferences attendees and tech labs, who have all found it fit for purpose. Innovus is supporting the commercialisation of this facility and is responsible for renting it to other parties.
Maties Gym is also nearing the end of its own revitalisation project. Not only is it jam-packed with top-of-the-range equipment, but it also boasts completely revamped areas, a High Performance section and athletics track. It has increased its foot traffic by more than 30% and its revenue to match, and it is attracting international athletes from across the globe, who come to our fair land to train when it is either too cold or too unrealistic in their own.
Innovus has also done a fair bit of modernising itself. To help get all the wonderful products that our University and our town are so renowned for, we have started a new friendship with South Africa’s favourite online retailer and delivery ’vehicle’, Takealot.com. To celebrate, we have released a very special, limited edition version of the Die Laan Pinotage called, as it is also the celebration of SU’s centenary, Eeufees Pinotage. But the list of products available online will soon be growing, so that our University’s reach will only be limited by our country’s broadband coverage. Another global platform we wanted to take advantage of was Airbnb. After all, Stellenbosch University is a destination of choice for people all across the world, and we do have a lot of available accommodation. Currently, we are the second university on this planet to take advantage of this platform, and its helping to monetise ‘dormant dorms’, further contributing to our tourism feasibility and ‘bottom line’.
We live to connect:
Much effort has gone in to building out the Stellenbosch Knowledge Region, which is not only setting us apart, but is helping to increase our 5th revenue stream. It is also bringing more entrepreneurially-minded people to our region. To do this, we need to bring people together in new ways, and that is just what we have been doing.
A ‘knowledge region’ does not build itself, but the planned Conference Support Division (CSD) at Innovus will be tasked to help do just that. Partnering with two extremely resourceful companies, Stellenbosch360 and the Convention Bureau, their taskwill be to ensure that no matter what you may require - food and drink, projectors, sound and lighting, accommodation, logistics, venues, travel booking, brochure-ware, tickets - the CSD has the ability to make it happen. We aim to launch this service in 2019 to provide support to SU staff wishing to arrange conferences and other events.
August 2018 also saw us throw our seminal Fintechathon. Here groups of student designers, programmers, builders and engineers were tasked with solving financial problems through technology. Our partners, Entersekt and Capitec Bank, helped us organise and judge the strenuous two-day (and night) hackaton, but the results were absolutely worth it. At this stage, 1 in 5 of the participants have been hired by the sponsors, who found the hackathon as valuable as the students who participated.
With our friends at the LaunchLab, we set out to increase the entrepreneurial culture across the entire University with the Innovus Annual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp. Through the Business Model Canvass and Growth Wheel, guest speakers and the advice of successful entrepreneurs, we educated students from a diversity of disciplines on how to practically start and grow their own entrepreneurial ventures and then by allowing them to apply the theory to practical examples.
Both the Fintechathon and Innovus Annual Entrepreneurship Bootcamp events were a part of a broader Student Entrepreneurship Week, which took place in Stellenbosch. The activities ranged from start-up and spin-out talks, pitching competitions, masterclasses on cryptocurrencies (driven by SU students), a Neelsie ‘open mic’ event, where students pitched their ideas to hundreds of student and a panel of judges, and the SU IdeaSmash, which saw 6 winning teams receive R10 000 in cash each.
Much of the time our work focusses on the sciences, but the arts are just as important, and our arts students just as talented. So, in September 2018, we held a design competition for our Visual Arts students to encourage them to conceptualise their own visions of our beautiful town and University in a single design, then print these onto t-shirts and sell them as modern, contemporary alternatives to the SU- and Maties-branded products. The challenge was to represent ‘My Stellenbosch’ – the way they see the town – in a such a manner that would appeal to students, locals and tourists. The winning designs were exceptional, and unexpected, and you will be able to get your own in both Maties Shops (in the Neelsie Centre and Dorp Street) before the holidays.
We live to grow:
With all that is going on (please make sure you read the ‘Innovus in Numbers’ article for even more detail) you would imagine we would be hard-pressed to do anything but work, and you would be right. Far too many people have come to rely on Innovus for us to simply allow the growing businesses and workload effect our service delivery. So, we have had to search for new talent and invite them to join the Innovus family. In this regard, we have been extremely fortunate. We acquired probably the most qualified over-achiever as a Director of Technology Transfer, as well as some amazing Technology Transfer Managers, Officers and Administrators. In Anita’s words, we now have “The best team I have ever worked with!”, and this means that we can truly do anything, moving on to greater heights, new achievements and sending even more awesome companies, inventors and innovators into the world, all for the good of Stellenbosch, our University and our country.
Innovus, Stellenbosch University
15 De Beer Street
PO Box 3135
t +27 (0) 21 808 3826