South Africa looks to research, innovation to grow economy

3 February 2015

South Africa’s efforts to grow the economy and create jobs through research and innovation topped the agenda at the Innovation Bridge technology showcase and matchmaking event, taking place in Pretoria.

A first-of-its-kind, the two-day technology matchmaking event provides an opportunity for local and international technology-based companies, entrepreneurs and financiers to scout for technology solutions and investment opportunities.

Speaking on the sidelines of the gathering, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said the event also gave people from various sectors an opportunity to come together.

Increasing the number of researchers, and enhancing research and innovation skills and outputs could contribute positively to improving South Africa’s economy and job creation efforts, she said.

“Knowledge is the currency of the global economy. If South Africa wants to continue to compete in the 21st century, we must support research and innovation that will generate growth and jobs now and in the future.”

Her department had provided support for the development and commercialisation of research and development (R&D) outputs as well as legislation.

The Innovation Bridge would serve as a key platform to close the gap between R&D and the market, contribute to economic competitiveness and stimulate increased investment in R&D through the creation of an enabling environment for technology exploitation and entrepreneurial partnerships, Pandor said.

The government was increasingly investing in research and development. The 2011 South African Innovation Survey showed that South African enterprises had a relatively high and novel innovation rate.

It recommended that policy makers should take note of these positive trends and ensure that the policy and infrastructure environment actively supported innovation activities in the productive sectors of the economy.

A mobile hearing screening solution is just one of the innovations at the Innovation Bridge. The product transforms a smart phone into a calibrated device for early identification of hearing loss, which according to the World Health Organization, affects more than 3 million people in South Africa alone, and 360 million people globally.

The 2015 Innovation Bridge is organised by the Department of Science and Technology, with its partners the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), National Intellectual Property Management Office and Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association. Representatives of various local and foreign organisations are attending.

The Department of Science and Technology initiated the Innovation Bridge to provide the first opportunity of its kind for national and international technology-based companies, technology entrepreneurs, investors, financiers and other technology commercialisation partners, to access the latest and best publicly funded technology offerings from South Africa’s universities, science councils and companies supported by the TIA.

It ends on 3 February, and includes technology exhibitions and demonstrations, policy dialogues and plenary discussions, training sessions and one-on-one meeting opportunities where visitors and participants can interact directly with researchers and technology developers from research and development organisations

Going forward, it is foreseen that the Innovation Bridge event will be organised every two years as a prominent feature on South Africa’s calendar of innovation events.