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Department to look into setting up sovereign innovation fund – Pandor

Naledi Pandor

The Department of Science and Technology plans to this year develop a business case for the setting up of a sovereign innovation fund, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said today in Cape Town.

Delivering her budget vote address today in Parliament Pandor said her department would work together with the departments of trade and industry, as well as economic development and small business development and other interested parties on compiling the business case.

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She said the fund is a priority for public-private funding partnerships aimed at commercialising innovations from the public and the private sector.

Pandor added that this year the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) plans to help 2,800 small and medium enterprises use specialised equipment at institutions of higher learning and benefit from technical expertise to translate their technological innovations into products and prototypes at a cost of R105-million.

Aimed at public-private partnerships commercialising innovations

The department also supported a number of innovators through the Global CleanTech Innovation Programme for small and medium enterprises in South Africa, at a cost of R3.8-million.

These include innovators who designed the Thevia roof tile, comprising 90% waste materials, where the tiles are twice as strong and 25% the weight of normal cement tiles with a similar manufacturing cost.

Another innovator, André Nel, has patented the Green Tower, a solar-powered heat pump for domestic hot water that uses 90% less energy than a conventional geyser.

Pandor said the department will disburse R153-million towards technology development and pre-commercialisation processes through TIA, while an amount of R228-million will be allocated for continued support for small and medium businesses and initiatives such as the Youth Technology Programme, the Technology Platform Programme, the Technology Stations Programme, and the Technology Innovation Programmes.

The department’s grassroots innovators’ initiative, which piloted last year at a cost of R2-million, has enabled it to establish a database of grassroots innovations and identify support needs.

Pandor said the need for the pilot was informed by the many young and unemployed innovators who use local resources to develop promising technologies and solutions outside formal innovation institutions.

“So far, we have seen some excellent innovations, such as Phumlani Nthloko and Skhumbuzo Ndlovu’s computer numerical control machine with milling and 3D printing capability, Nkosana Madi’s motorised bicycle, and an electric engine being developed by Melusi Ntuli,” she said.

Featured image: CTBTO via Flickr (CC 2.0, resized)

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