The “Innovation Chasm”

An often spoken about weakness in the innovation / commercialisation chain is the so-called “innovation chasm”. This refers to the inability of academic research to reach the market as products and services. In the past decade, the National Department of Science and Technology (DST) has put into place several instruments to bridge this gap, the most recent of which are the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO). However, in terms of tangible outputs such as biotechnology firms, employment, patents and commercialisation revenues, a limited amount of progress has been made. One of the reasons for this lack of growth may be the lack of projects entering the innovation pipeline, and that the pipeline is for all intents and purposes “empty”. In order to address this need, the Institute will cater for the following elements of the pipeline:

  • Basic and clinical market-driven research
  • Identification and protection of IP emanating from the research 
  • Establishment of a proof-of-concept facility to assess IP for commercialisation potential 
  • Assistance with commercialisation including market assessment, funding, marketing, legislation, in- and out-licensing, etc.

In the National Biotechnology Audit conducted by the Dept. of Science and Technology in 2007, 78 companies were identified as being biotechnology “active”, while 38 companies were identified as biotechnology “core”. “Active” companies have the majority of their products in production stage, while “core” companies have the majority of their products in the R&D stage. With regard to the origin of the “core” companies, the following pie chart (Figure 3) indicates that 44% of companies are spin-offs from Universities.


Published by Ansa Heyl

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