The annual Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) innovation competitions attracted more than 700 entries in the last four years and researchers and entrepreneurs from across the country were awarded over R7 million in seed funding and incubation support to launch their innovative projects. The competitions span various sectors and innovations are entered in four distinct categories, namely GAP Green, GAP Biosciences, GAP ICT and GAP Medical. A number of researchers from the University of Pretoria (UP) entered the competitions this year of which three received awards at the GAP sciences awards function that took place at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria on Friday, 20 November 2015.
Prof De Wet Swanepoel from the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology was placed third for the now well-known hearScreen application in the GAP ICT competition. This competition aims to identify researchers and entrepreneurs working on ICT-based solutions to our country’s biggest challenges – from mobile applications used in classrooms to geo-spatial technologies for environmental and disaster management. The hearScreen app is a low-cost mHealth solution for hearing problems and makes it possible to do clinically valid tests anywhere, any time. The application makes use of cloud-based data management and referral systems to link patients to services and is so user friendly that it can be operated by untrained persons. hearScreen’s vision is to have an impact on the lives of the 1,2 billion people around the world who suffer hearing difficulties by providing them with affordable access and linkage to hearing services. The prize awarded to Prof Swanepoel includes incubation services from The Innovation Hub’s Maxum Business Incubator and mLab (a mobile applications laboratory for ICT start-ups), as well as R70 000 seed funding and a R10 000 cash award.
In the GAP Green competition, which is run in collaboration with the Climate Innovation Centre South Africa (CIC; a World Bank InfoDev clean technology incubator based at The Innovation Hub), Dr Heinrich Badenhorst from the Department of Chemical Engineering at UP was awarded third place for his small-scale water purification system. The Climate Innovation Centre South Africa supports emerging entrepreneurs who develop green technology solutions for challenges related to energy security, water management, waste and sanitation, sustainable mobility and food security. Dr Badenhorst’s invention will make it possible to turn sea and brackish water into clean, drinkable water by utilising sunlight. The system is based on a novel solar concentrator, manufactured using cheap, off-the-shelf components. The process starts with nanocarbons absorbing sunlight, which causes water to evaporate leaving the salt particles behind. The end result is distilled fresh water that is produced exactly like rain is formed in nature. The third prize in this competition includes incubation services from The Innovation Hub’s Maxum Business Incubator and CIC, R100 000 in seed funding and a R20 000 cash award.
Prof Mashudu Tshifularo, Head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat Studies, ENT) at UP, received a GAP Medical Special Recognition award for his innovative hearing prosthesis. The GAP Medical competition is run in partnership with World Innovation Day, which is organised by the University Hospital in Geneva, Switzerland. The competition focuses on identifying and nurturing health innovations that will contribute to improving health service delivery in hospitals and finding novel medical technologies and innovative hospital processes. Prof Tshifularo’s invention involves a middle ear medical prosthesis used to restore hearing more quickly, more easily and more safely and has minimal complications. The award includes incubation at The Innovation Hub’s Maxum Business Incubator, as well as R50 000 in seed funding.