Posted on June 02, 2021
The support of the French Embassy in South Africa for the cross-acceleration exchange programme between the University of Pretoria (UP) and the French Institut Mines-Télécom (IMT) was demonstrated at a virtual round table to launch the programme at UP’s Future Africa auditorium on 22 April 2021. The programme forms part of a partnership between TuksNovation, the University’s high-tech business incubator, and IMT to support tech start-ups.
The objectives of the programme launch were to give students an understanding of the city or region’s communities, challenges and opportunities, to build local networks (both with peers and local organisations and leaders), to develop the collaborative, leadership and employability skills students might need to succeed in a competitive job market, and to develop the collaborative leadership skills needed to tackle complex problems and achieve change.
The programme was directed by Leago Takalani, CEO of Luvhone Engineering and Board member of TuksNovation. The event was opened with welcome addresses from Prof Sunil Maharaj, Dean of the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology and Chairperson of TuksNovation’s Board, and Dr Patrick Duvaut (via livestream), Director of Innovation at IMT. Keynote addresses were delivered by His Excellency Aurélien Lechevallier, the French Ambassador to South Africa, Prof Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP, Daan du Toit, Deputy Director-General of International Cooperation and Resources in the Department of Science and Innovation, and Odile Gauthier, Executive Director of MIT.
The virtual round table was followed by a virtual 30-minute round table panel discussion with audience participation.
This was followed by a virtual 30-minute round table panel discussion with audience participation (via a chat function) facilitated by Dr Roze Phillips, Executive Director: Value Creation at the University’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). Panelists included Dr Anthon Botha, Acting Centre Manager: TuksNovation, Prof Alex Antonites, Head: Department of Business Management at UP, Thabang Qumza, Commercialisation Manager: Technology Transfer Office at UP, Dr Jean-Christophe Baudez, Executive Director: Research and Innovation at IMT Lille Douai, Dr Patrick Pizette, Associate Professor at IMT Lille Douai, and Samantha Castle, Senior Manager: Alumni Relations at UP.
The programme will enable entrepreneurs with established companies in their final stages of business incubation and who will benefit from access to the French market the opportunity to spend two months at one of IMT’s incubators in France. They will be led through a process of business model validation in order to achieve product-market fit, and to develop key relationships to commercialise and gain access to European markets.
Prof Kupe said that he is excited about the opportunities that this partnership will provide. “This cross-acceleration 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.”
According to Ambassador 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.”
Highlighting the dynamics of the partnership, Dr Duvaut stated that “the cross-acceleration programme is a unique win-win opportunity for all its stakeholders. It behaves as a genuine value booster for start-ups that leverages foreign market growth. Larger revenues and scale-up fundraising are among 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. The IMT is very proud to have TuksNovation as a partner.”
Gauthier affirmed this, stating that, “as an academic leader that supports innovation and business development, IMT wants 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.”
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