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TIA seed fund lending to innovators, entrepreneurs grows 12% to R74m

The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) channeled R74.3-million in the last financial year to 133 innovative projects — up from R66.5-million in the 2015/16 year — through its seed fund, the agency revealed in its latest annual report.

The seed fund, which the agency launched in 2013, provides entrepreneurs and innovators that develop innovative solutions with grant funding of up to R500 000 to R650 000 per project.

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The fund has two streams – one that channels seed funding through technology transfer centres at universities and science centres to innovative projects and another that works with a number of small business support organisations in provinces to disburse funding to entrepreneurs.

TIA seed fund disbursed R47.8-million via universities and R26.5-million via small business support organisations

A network of 23 technology transfer centres at universities and research agencies channeled R47.8-million in seed funding to 101 innovative projects (compared to R44-million that went to 101 in 2015/16). Most of the funding went to back projects in Gauteng (41% of the funding), Western Cape (22%) and the Eastern Cape (15%).

The agency also invested R26.5-million in 32 innovations via small business support organisations (compared to R2.5-million to seven projects in 2015/16).

There are currently nine organisations involved in the small business support organisations stream, namely: The Innovation HubECDCInvotechSmartXchangeFree State Development CorporationLimpopo Economic Development Agency, Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI), Savant and Propella.

The majority of the funding was channeled via the CCDI (29%) and The Innovation Hub (29%).

In May the CCDI announced the names of seven biotech and agricultural projects selected for the organisation’s second round of seed funding.

Read more: CCDI to back seven innovative Cape projects in second round of seed fund

TIA has in recent years faced criticism from innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers over its performance.

However TIA chief executive Barlow Manilal noted in TIA’s latest annual report that the agency had disbursed R465-million to innovators and businesses in the last financial year, up from R378-million in the 2015/16 year.

In addition the agency achieved 86% of its performance targets and its best audit result since the establishment of the agency in 2008, all in a difficult economic climate. “All these positive developments we attained for the very first time,” Manilal pointed out.

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