Women took the lead at the annual Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMEs in South Africa, with four companies owned by women taking awards. Two of the winning women will also rub shoulders with participants at an international cleantech conference.
Three South African small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will attend the Cleantech Open Global Forum in San Francisco, US, in February 2017.
Yolandi Schoeman of Baoberry, Pamela Alborough of SanAqua and Martin Ackermann of Thevia won awards at the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMEs in South Africa (GCIP-SA) in Johannesburg.
At heart, Cleantech is green technology. It refers to any process, product or service that reduces negative environmental impacts through significant energy efficiency improvements, the sustainable use of resources, or environmental protection activities.
The Cleantech Open Global Forum will be hosted from 6-10 February 2017.
The GCIP-SA is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (Unido) with funding by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). In South Africa, Unido partners with the Technology Innovation Agency as the execution and hosting institution for the GCIP. Cleantech Open, based in the US, serves as the main knowledge partner of the global programme.
Women dominate awards
The GCIP-SA focuses on promoting clean technology innovation aimed at addressing the most pressing energy, environmental and economic challenges of our time.
At the GCIP-SA gala evening this year, held on 20 October 2016, businesses owned by women dominated the awards: five of the six awards were won by women. Schoeman walked away with two – the overall winner and Most Promising Woman-Led Business.
The others were:
- Pamela Alborough of SanAqua – one of two runners-up
- Sandiswa Qayi of Amahlathi Echo-Tech – winner of Most Promising Youth-Led Business
- Louise Williamson of Sustainability Professionals – winner of Innovation for Social Impact
Small business is big business
In her keynote speech at the GCIP-SA gala and awards, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor explained that by creating a platform to link South African cleantech entrepreneurs with investors and business and commercial partners, the programme aimed to contribute to the commercialisation of new products and services, and ultimately job creation.
The intention of her department was “to exploit the creative abilities of the innovators in our country so that they can establish viable businesses and produce globally marketable products that put South African innovation on the world stage… and show that we as South Africans are capable people”.
In September, Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe said: “A total of 47% of our country’s people are employed by the small business sector. That is 7,3-million people.” To him, small business is big business.
This means that the GCIP-SA is in line with the National Development Plan 2030, which has as an aim the creation of millions of jobs for South Africans.
Out of more than 80 companies, there were 26 semifinalists for the GCIP-SA competition. Nine were in the energy efficiency category, six in water efficiency, five in renewable energy, four in waste beneficiation, and two in the new green buildings category.
During the last week of July, the 26 semifinalists attended business clinics in Durban, Cape Town and Pretoria.
They had one-on-one consultations with topic specialists in key entrepreneurial concepts at the clinics. The topics discussed included financing, intellectual property, product development, marketing and business modelling, all targeted at tackling specific challenges in their businesses.
Insert image. Caption: The Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for small and medium enterprises aims to train, mentor and give access to participating entrepreneurs annually. This promises to boost job creation in the country.
Gerswynn McKuur, the national project manager of GCIP-SA, said the participants would benefit from the following services:
- Training through national academies, webinars, regional events and business clinics;
- Mentoring by local and international experts on business development and subject matter specialists;
- Access to capital through building relationships with strategic investors, angel groups, pitch panels, networking, and investor connect programmes;
- Showcasing innovations at regional events, national conferences, and through global media exposure.
It was important to note, McKuur said, that GCIP-SA finalists and semifinalists from 2014, 2015 and 2016 were exposed to ongoing opportunities for mentorship and exposure to potential partners, customers and investors, and not only during the year in which they participated in the programme.
“This is part of the GCIP-SA’s mandate of building and maintaining a platform and ecosystem for cleantech innovators in South Africa, and connecting them to relevant international networks.”
For example, arrangements were being made through Unido for three participants to take part in a side event at CoP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, from 7-18 November this year.
Through its extensive training and mentoring programme, McKuur said, the GCIP-SA helped SMEs and start-ups:
- to de-risk and make their businesses investor-friendly, thus contributing to their success and expansion; and,
- to introduce innovative new products into the market.
In this way it was making a positive contribution to the South African economy.
The winners’ projects
Yolandi Schoeman of Baoberry is the overall winner of the 2016 Global Cleantech Innovation Programme for SMEs in South Africa (GCIP-SA).
Schoeman also won Most Promising Female-Led Business for 2016 for the aWetbox, or “wetland in a box”. The aWetbox is “a cost-effective, low-maintenance, carbon sequestrating solution to assist municipalities (critical infrastructure needs) and low- to high income home owners to improve water quality with downstream business opportunities.
“It is an integrated grey water treatment and rainwater harvesting and treatment system for water optimization, availability, re-use and treatment.”
Pamela Alborough of the company SanAque HCA is a runner-up. Her innovation, the Hydrochemical Activation Treatment (HAT System) is “a small, electronic water treatment component.
“It is modular so is capable of improving treatment of small to large quantities of water (from 1kl/hr up to very large plants). The system uses no chemicals, requires low skills to operate and by disrupting and coagulating harmful pollutants, cleans water more cheaply and effectively than ever before.”
Martin Ackermann, another runner-up is team-leader of the company Thevia. It manufactures Thevia roof tiles. The tiles are made from 99% waste materials, including crusher discard.
They weigh a quarter of traditional concrete tiles but are twice as strong and not brittle (<0.1% breakage). Compared to the cheapest concrete tile, Thevia tiles provide an 8-15% cost saving on total roof installation.
Sandiswa Qayi of Amahlathi Eco-Tech won the award for the Most Promising Youth-Led Business. The company’s innovation is Hot Spot for geysers.
According to the Department of Science and Technology, 6.2 million geysers in the country on the grid consume 40% of monthly electricity; the average heating time for these geysers is 1.5 to three hours.
The Hot Spot is explained as “a geyser sleeve/conduit that can be retrofitted over any standard geyser element. The Hot Spot’s solution is to push hot water from the bottom to the top of the geyser using thermosiphon.
“It provides 50 litres of hot water within 30 minutes at 50 degrees Celsius for use by all households and small commercial users.”
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