University of Pretoria partners with France-South Africa Cross-Acceleration Programme to benefit small businesses

Posted on March 05, 2021

The technology business incubator TuksNovation at the University of Pretoria (UP) has partnered with the Institut Mines-Télécom (IMT), a public institution dedicated to higher education, research and innovation in engineering and digital technology,  and their business incubators in a Cross-Acceleration Exchange Programme.

This programme between South Africa and France will offer technology start-ups the opportunity to test and validate their business models and solutions in a foreign market, facilitating market access and the opportunity to build partnerships. The collaboration is made possible by an agreement between the two organisations and the Attaché for Innovation at the Embassy of France in South Africa, through the promotion of the development of technology start-ups (financial assistance allocated by the Service de Coopération et d’Action Culturelle). The partnership stems from a longstanding collaboration between UP and IMT Lille-Douai, a school of the IMT, started in 2015.

According to TuksNovation’s Acting Centre Manager, Dr Anthon Botha, “The project will be achieved by an exchange programme that supports one entrepreneur of a start-up from each country to spend two months at TuksNovation in South Africa, or at an IMT-related incubator. The respective incubators will provide business incubation and acceleration, and also facilitate access to markets for start-ups in the African Anglophone and European markets.” The selected entrepreneurs will have established companies in their final stages of business acceleration.

The broader partnership between UP and IMT will also foster academic and scientific collaboration, provide opportunities for global experience, and facilitate advancement of knowledge based on frequent interactions between IMT and UP in the fields of education, research, innovation, business incubation and tech commercialisation. Dr Botha said, “Internationalisation opens up global opportunity – knowing how to do business internationally, acquiring global marketing skills and understanding global business culture.”

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe said he is excited about the opportunities that this partnership will provide. “This cross-collaborative exchange programme between TuksNovation and IMT will bring much-needed opportunities to allow the growth and development of local businesses. Most importantly, it will expose our entrepreneurs to a larger international market, thus showcasing to France and the world that South Africa – and by extension Africa – is open for business. We are also delighted to see the partnership between UP and IMT growing from strength to strength.”

According to French Ambassador Aurélien Lechevallier, “This programme represents a new step in the rapprochement of French and South African innovation ecosystems, and demonstrates the opportunities for cooperation between our two countries. It will support the internationalisation of research-based young innovative companies; an important condition for their growth and development.”

He added that the programme “reminds us of the role of universities and research centres to promote economic growth, and the importance of the link between science and innovation. The French Embassy is naturally happy and proud to be able to work with these two prestigious institutions within the framework of this project.”

Patrick Duvaut, Head of Innovation at IMT, highlights the dynamics of the partnership: “The cross-acceleration program is a unique win-win opportunity for all its stakeholders. The programme behaves as a genuine value-booster for start-ups that leverages foreign market growth. Larger revenues and scale-up fundraising are amongst the short-term success indicators for a selected start-up. While the French Embassy in South Africa fully supports the first edition, viewed as a proof of concept (limited to one start-up from each country), a sustainable model will help the programme to scale up. IMT and IMT Lille-Douai are very proud to have TuksNovation as a partner.”      

Odile Gauthier, Managing Director at IMT, says : “As an academic leader that supports innovation and business development, we want to multiply this type of international partnership that strengthens the development and mobility opportunities for our incubated start-ups and researchers. Our national network of eight incubators established throughout France fosters technological entrepreneurship and we are keen to connect to the Future Africa campus through this cross-acceleration programme that will serve both countries.”

The successful applicants will be on-boarded in April, and then prepared by means of virtual incubation for the two months of the exchange. Upon return they will be assisted in confirming and operationalising partner and client agreements.

- Author Primarashni Gower

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