Scores of ingenious South African youth are set to benefit from a programme that aims to upscale their innovations to be commercially viable. The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) announced last week that five “market-ready innovations” that have been created by the country brightest young innovators would be assisted to increase their chances to access funding and further development.
The agency is an outfit of the department of science and innovation (DSI), “tasked with scaling up the implementation and growth of the Grassroots Innovation Programme (GIP) with a dual focus on increasing the participation of innovators and promoting their access to key development, funding and innovation enabling initiatives nationally”.
Conceptualising and nurturing innovative ideas until they are successfully commercialised has been one of the main weaknesses among the South African scientists and academics. Last year the International Society for Professional Innovation Management held an online ‘Connect Global 2020’ conference, to specifically address this “innovation chasm”.
Linking up innovators
In a statement the agency said the innovators are supported through an initiative called the GIP, which it runs jointly with the DSI. TIA further added that GIP is aimed at commercialising local innovations from ordinary citizens.
The five innovations are linked to various sectors of the economy ranging from education, insurance to municipalities and property management, e-commerce and people living with disabilities. In addition, the GIP will link the innovators to subject matter experts and advanced facilities, such as technology stations, where their innovations and inventions are further developed towards commercialisation.
One of the beneficiaries of the GIP is Siphiwe Zuma whose innovation was supported through the Reinforced and Moulded Plastics Technology Station (RMPTS) at the Durban University of Technology.
Hailing from Inanda in KwaZulu-Natal, Zuma came up with his innovation after he was involved in a car crash which left him paralysed. This mishap inspired his innovation of a wheelchair fitted with an umbrella holder.
According to the TIA, the retractable umbrella can be retrofitted to a wheelchair this protecting the user from the rain or harmful UV rays. In addition, the umbrella’s mechanism allows the user to pull a strap to open the umbrella and adjust its height, and to retract the device back into the holder attached to the wheelchair.
Thulani Khumalo who hails from Soweto, founded Technical Plumbing Solutions (TPS). It is a technology solution designed to detect and report sewage blockages and missing manhole covers. His Prev Leak Plumbing mobile application encourages easy reporting, improving service delivery in the provision of clean water and proper sanitation.
Another innovation was developed by Ownedby Philasande Bongo from Johannesburg. It is a digital platform that helps households and businesses to trace lost or stolen appliances and devices. The digital platform gives appliances and devices a unique online profile and history that permanently links it to the owner. The link makes it possible for these items to be traced and retrieved in the case of loss or theft. The innovation will be a boon for the insurance industry and reduce crime by preventing illegal sales.
Alton Junior Maropeng also from Johannesburg developed S-Store, an online grocery shopping platform for students to remotely purchase their groceries and have them delivered directly to their doorstep. This gives them enough time to focus on their studies.
Another exciting project is Sisanda App Universe which allows learners to perform science experiments using the camera of their smartphone or tablet. This was developed by Mbangiso Mabaso, a 30-year-old from Botshabelo in the Free State. This bundle of science applications can be used by Grade 4 to 12 learners to make science engaging, fun and accessible to thousands of learners.
Appreciating young talent
Speaking at the launch of the initiative, TIA acting chief executive officer, Patrick Krappie said: “Here we have young, talented people who have been able to identify societal challenges and responding to those using their creative abilities. These are solutions that have been developed by people who are in touch with the realities and challenges of our country, wanting to bring solutions that respond to practical challenges around crime, education, sanitation and disabilities”.
Deputy director-general for socio-economic innovation partnerships at the DSI, Imraan Patel, said the GIP was increasingly attracting more collaborations through various initiatives and interventions within government. “As we get to the end of Youth Month, we need to look at this programme and the five innovations and ask ourselves how we can upscale these and multiply them into a thousand and more.”