The University of Pretoria (UP) is participating in an inter-university innovation challenge with Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and UNISA in an attempt to help the City of Tshwane (CoT) with ideas for innovative and efficient service delivery.
Dr Norah Clarke (Universities South Africa), Isaiah Engelbrecht (Executive Director: Innovation and Knowledge Management, City of Tshwane), Anéa Burke le Roux (Centre Manager, TuksNovation) and Prof Alex Antonites (Head of UP Dept of Business Management).
The challenge launch took place recently at the Gauteng provincial government’s Innovation Hub. The project is a collaboration between the CoT, the Innovation Hub, TUT, UNISA, UP, TuksNovation (UP’s tech incubator and accelerator), Universities South Africa, and the Technology Innovation Agency. It aims to make Tshwane “Africa’s Innovation Capital”. According to the CoT, “The goal of the university innovation challenge is to develop highly competent and confident student entrepreneurs who have the capacity to conceive and implement innovative solutions that can solve service delivery challenges experienced and ultimately improve the quality of life of the residents of South Africa and beyond.”
The programme aims to build a vibrant, competitive entrepreneurship community in Tshwane. The objectives are:
- to build a pipeline of entrepreneurs and innovators;
- to create a platform for student entrepreneurs to showcase their innovative ideas;
- to identify service delivery-focused innovations that can be that can be upscaled and commercialised; and
- to provide support (financial and non-financial) to student entrepreneurs.
The focus areas are water and energy, waste (CleanTech), finance (revenue generation/collection) and clean transport/mobility. Students must be enrolled at one of the participating universities at the time of the application for participation in the challenge. They must have a registered legal entity, or the business must be in the process of being registered. They may submit two proposals. Those selected will be invited to participate in innovation boot camps. Prizes for winners include seed funding/start-up support, incubation, mentorship and piloting.
Speaking at the launch, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Economic Development and Spatial Planning Isak Pietersen, who acted as mayor, said, “This event is a milestone in improving service delivery through innovation and collaborative partnerships. It is through these partnerships that we can work jointly to exchange ideas and develop new knowledge that can make us a more efficient metro and [help us find] sustainable solutions to real-life challenges such as water issues in Hammanskraal, revenue collection and youth unemployment, to name a few.”
Pietersen said the leadership of the City of Tshwane is committed to this project and called upon stakeholders to support the initiative “through exploring innovative mechanisms to improve the City’s efforts to deliver service to the residents”.
Member of the Tshwane Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Economic Development and Spatial Planning Isak Pietersen with MMC for Finance Mare-Lise Fourie.
Professor Alex Antonites, UP’s Head of the Department of Business Management and a director at TuksNovation, welcomed the challenge, explaining that it will result in practical solutions. He said, “Universities are in many ways complex organisations and sometimes work in silos because of their mandate. They have to produce cutting-edge research and publish in order to get subsidies and international recognition and ranking, offer quality-driven teaching and learning opportunities, and engage with their communities via academic citizenship initiatives. Initiatives like the Innovation Challenge will enhance collaboration and touch upon all three strategic drivers of universities –research, teaching and academic citizenship – as partners in the innovation ecosystem.”
Prof Antonites stressed that UP is an entrepreneurial university. It continues with its significant focus on employability, but now also enhances self-employment through the newly established Centre for Entrepreneurship (an inter-faculty centre) and via vehicles like TuksNovation.
Prof Antonites said UP offers a free online entrepreneurship course to students, to create a strong entrepreneurial orientation early in their careers. “UP’s entrepreneurial university strategy includes a comprehensive entrepreneurship pipeline from ideation and pre-incubation, advanced technology orientated incubation and, soon, co-working space for entrepreneurial alumni. Our entrepreneurship initiatives are inclusive and free to all our students and staff.”