Iraka Biotech, an innovation start-up based in the Vaal, was crowned the winner of Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP-SA) for 2020. The start-up was chosen out of eighteen prospective participants from across the country after a rigorous and intensive screenings process early last month.
Co-founded by Dr Cornelius Cano Ssemakalu, who is also a chief scientific officer, the Iraka Biotech start-up aims to reduce the transmission of zoonotic diseases (infectious diseases caused by a pathogen such as bacterium, virus, parasites etc. that has its origins from an animal to human).
The innovation will also help raise awareness and improve the health of communities that rely on livestock for livelihood. In addition, the vaccine technology got the nod for its “green and clean vaccine production platform that makes high quality veterinary vaccines affordable and reliably accessible”.
Dr Ssemakalu oversees the optimisation of the company’s platform technology for the different animal husbandry sectors and veterinary needs.
The GCIP-SA is global initiative aimed at promoting clean technology innovations and provides support to entrepreneurs to grow their SMMEs and start-ups into “viable, investment ready businesses”. In 208 the department of science and technology incorporated it into a Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) after four years as a donor-funded project.
“I feel very honoured to have been part of the 2020 GCIP-SA cohort. I am also truly grateful for having emerged as a finalist and more importantly the recipient of the 2020 GCIP-SA’s topmost award. Iraka Biotech intends to use this award to reduce the time it would have taken to validate a vaccine produced using its novel vaccine production platform technology,” said the excited Dr Ssemakalu.
He said the innovation had the potential to reduce reliance of the animal sector on imported vaccines. The innovation will contribute to making quality veterinary vaccines available at a favourable price point, he added.
Dr Ssemakalu said the innovation started as an idea, and it took root when he shared his vision with relevant people who helped shaped the concept and also build his confidence to take the dream further.
“I then realised that perseverance is the common denominator among all the entrepreneurs that have survived this journey. The path is never straightforward but there is always help along the way, TIA offered me the assistance I needed. For me, it has always been about dignity, respect and equitable sharing of scientific discoveries,” said Dr Ssemakalu.
Marlene Badenhorst of SlideLuvre and Ruse Moleshe, Sanineat (Pty) Ltd who each received a R100 000 for their clean and green innovations were adjudged first and second runners-up.
Badenhorst, described her project as an intelligent shading system for commercial buildings. Her innovation optimises solar energy generation, energy efficiency and occupant comfort thus reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions by as much as 50%. Her innovation should encourage other women involved in similar science and technology initiatives to step forward.
Sanineat, Moleshe’s brainchild, is the first green innovatoin enterprise in Mpumalanga that grows low-cost and drought resistant moringa ‘miracle’ trees to produce biodiesel, oil, powdered leaves, and seedcake, among others. The seed residue of the moringa tree, explained Moleshe, is used to purify water, thus creating several jobs in the community and alleviating poverty and malnutrition in children and livestock.
Sanineat makes a positive impact on the South African socio-economy by providing affordable clean fuel, employing rural communities, contributing to reduction of global CO2 emissions and water use through its efficient dry wash system.
Deputy director-general for international co-operation and resources at the DSI, Daan du Toit, said the awards are part of the first draft of his department’s 10 year plan which is highly significant in South Africa’s science and technology landscape.
TIA acting chief executive officer, Patrick Krappie, said: “This team embodies the capabilities we have as South Africans; it is the young entrepreneurs that will put South Africa on the world stage. In fact, one of our previous winners went on to win the global competition of GCIP.”
Her counterpart, Senisha Moonsamy, who is acting head of the programme, also commented on the awards. “We are proud of the achievements of all our finalists; a special congratulations to Cornelius for his ground-breaking innovation.
Our 2020 GCIP contestants have truly shown the immense potential and growth we have as a country that thrives on innovation and curbing youth unemployment through their innovative and needed products and services,” said Moonsamy.