SingularityU announces 2017 ‘chapters’ in Cape Town, Johannesburg


Hosting an intimate event last night at Cape Town’s Workshop 17, Singularity University (SU) announced more granular news of its upcoming Cape Town and Johannesburg chapters.

Better known as SingularityU, the Silicon Valley-based think tank and startup incubator began life in 2009, and is partnered by companies like Google, NASA and Deloitte. The University has previously graced South African shores with competitions geared towards the country’s inventors and entrepreneurs, but the opening of its two new chapters is its latest venture.

According to SU’s Cape Town chapter figurehead Michael Fichardt, SingularityU “is a place where the world’s brightest minds convene to tackle the world’s toughest challenges”. The University breaks down these challenges into twelve distinct sectors, from energy to waste, to food to health.

Both Cape Town and Johannesburg will be a focal point for SingularityU this year, as the University launches chapters within both cities. These chapters aim to “build community”, introduce bright minds to one another, and “hopefully solve big problems as well”, according to Fichardt.

“Critically, it’s local innovation that makes the world go round,” Fichardt explains, suggesting that the change and disruption caused by technology in today’s world can also be remedied by technology. And of course, bright minds.

The University will be planning a number of events, with the first taking place on 5 April, focussing on the future of health. Johannesburg’s mirror of last night’s event will take place on 7 March.

“Other events will happen later in the year,” Fichardt adds.

SingularityU Global Solutions Programme (GSP)

Alongside the events, Fichardt also announced a number of competitions available for South African entrepreneurs and inventors to enter.

The University will be running a local version of the Global Impact Competition (GIC), which will see the winners head to Silicon Valley to partake in the GSP programme. The competition challenges entrants to use exponential technology to solve world problems. This year, the focus of the competition is climate change.

“We’ll be choosing ten finalists for a pitching event, and we’ll be sending one finalist to SU for the summer,” Fichardt explains.

The GSP is a nine-week course designed to group like-minded problem solvers together, in order to better formulate solutions to the worlds’ problems. In many ways, it’s a concentrated startup incubator, and can lay claim to birthing the likes of Made In Space and Matternet. Overall, the prize is worth around US$40 000.

Entries open today (2 March), and close on 10 May. The GSP begins in mid-June.

Fichardt also announced that a version for schools, which will be modelled on the GIC and will be supported by the Allan Gray Forbis Foundation. It will be hosted on SU’s Alan Gray’s Blue Helix system, and will be run in all SA’s provinces in addition to Namibia, Swaziland and Botswana.

Winners from each region will join a boot camp in Cape Town, and the ultimate winner of the boot camp will visit SU Silicon Valley for a week.

Singularity University Summit

Finally, SU also announced that a Singularity U Summit will be held in Cape Town this year. Although dates aren’t yet confirmed, Fichardt notes that SU is aiming for the final week of August.

“We’ll bring the full faculty from Silicon Valley through to South Africa, and have a two-day conference about tech, and about world problems,” he explains.

Experts in the fields of cybercrime, autonomous driving, and artificial intelligence are expected to make the trip, among others.

Andy Walker, former editor


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