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Innovation fund for South African tertiary institutions

12th April 2024

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have jointly launched a new fund to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship in the country’s tertiary education sector.

The Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF), as it is called, is intended to support those, at the country’s universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges, who seek to be innovators and tech entrepreneurs.

The ambition is to grow the fund to a total of R1-billion. It will function by means of calls for proposals from interested parties who have suitable expertise and programmes and who will work with universities and TVET colleges. The first two calls for proposals will be launched within the next two months.

The HEIF has been created to overcome constraints in the country’s innovation ecosystem. These include the lack of skilled student tech entrepreneurs (who could create and commercialise innovative products) and an absence of entrepreneurial networks and support in tertiary institutions, as well as limited access to opportunities, coaching and mentoring.

“These challenges are more acute in TVET colleges and historically disadvantaged universities,” pointed out Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Blade Nzimande.

The fund will achieve its goals by enabling students to learn about, and develop experience in, a range of essential skills. These are ideation and design thinking, business model development, validation, intellectual property protection, commercialisation, investor readiness, market access, and entrepreneurship in general.

Universities and other educational institutions in Africa were an untapped reservoir of innovative potential, across a wide range of sectors, that could help meet the continent’s challenges, highlighted UNDP resident representative Maxwell Gomera.

“It is imperative that we build robust ecosystems that support these innovations,” he affirmed.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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