The innovation scene in South Africa is bursting with energy and gaining some real momentum. The 2017 StartUp Genome Report (www.startupgenome.com) has named Cape Town and Johannesburg as two of the only three deep dives of innovation in Africa. A deep dive is an innovation ecosystem that is thriving, there is potential for billion dollar companies, there is significant risk capital being invested in innovation, there is a vibrant support to the ecosystem, and there is a hunger and a progress-driven culture.
That said, the Innovation Ecosystem is in its infancy. While we have inventors and founders with revolutionary ideas, the whole environment around them has some catching up to do before we can become a well-oiled innovation machine like Silicon Valley, Beijing or Tel Aviv, who are all in the top 20 deep dives worldwide.
So what is missing in our ecosystem? Where do we fall short? Jason Levitt, serial entrepreneur and director at Elevation asked himself exactly this question, why South Africa is not producing more Leapfrogs, Gazelles and the elusive and infinitely bankable Unicorns (https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/6baf89_3f0b372cd495451cba42490bfee73515.pdf). Interestingly, the findings concurred, we don’t have a shortage of innovative minds or for that matter, insufficient funds going into the young businesses, start-ups, and higher education institutions' vicissitudes. Interestingly, two of the major ‘gaps’ resulting from this research were that there was not enough “local cohesion and community-building in the ecosystem” and that we needed more “global connectedness and know-how”.
This is exactly what the portal aims to contribute towards. The primary goals of the portal being:
1. To create linkages and networks between regional, national and international innovators.
2. To create convenient and open communication between industry and public and private technology development.
3. To extend that communication, especially by including funding partners, with technology development and commercialisation role players.
Thus when we refer to the portal as being “an online technology matchmaking platform for researchers, innovators, technology developers, and entrepreneurs, business owners, and even the dreamers and the visionaries” we mean we want the right people to find each other and forge the South African innovation ecosystem into an era of realising the potential housed in our country.
To achieve this, The DST has identified key activities for the portal, these include:
The primary activity as such, the portal must house a fully searchable and comprehensive list of all the technologies, inventors/innovators/researchers, technology developers, funders, and financiers. This platform should be the ultimate matchmaking, support and collaboration promotion tool.
Steve Jobs once said:
“Technology is nothing. What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they'll do wonderful things with them.”
We hope the Innovation Bridge Portal will help you find the people, the tools and of course the technology as well. We believe this is the trifecta that can be the powder keg for an innovation explosion in South Africa.