Short on ideas

Finweek English Edition - - Communication & technology - CHIMWEMWE MWANZA

ON A MACRO LEVEL, in­no­va­tion is both a key driver in a coun­try’s eco­nomic growth and a dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic of com­pet­i­tive economies. It should there­fore be es­sen­tial that coun­tries look­ing to grow their economies – like South Africa – should have sound in­no­va­tion pro­grammes in place. Yet re­search shows that SA is be­com­ing less in­no­va­tive with each pass­ing year. The an­nual global en­trepreneur­ship mon­i­tor (GEM) re­cently re­leased by the Univer­sity of Cape Town’s Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness shows that SA is be­com­ing less in­no­va­tive than other emerg­ing economies, while re­search by me­dia anal­y­sis com­pany, Me­dia Tenor, in­di­cates that in­no­va­tion is be­com­ing less im­por­tant for CEs of JSE-listed com­pa­nies. To halt SA’s de­clin­ing in­no­va­tion stan­dards, a private-sec­tor ini­tia­tive led by CIDA city cam­pus has led to the launch of In­no­va­tionTOWN, which re­sulted from a fiveyear awards pro­gramme called “ the in­no­va­tion and sus­tain­abil­ity awards”, re­garded as SA’s lead­ing in­no­va­tion awards pro­gramme.

“The in­no­va­tion awards pro­gramme has evolved into In­no­va­tionTOWN, a cam­paign that will cham­pion in­no­va­tion in this coun­try as part of a 2010 ini­tia­tive to re­cre­ate SA as an in­no­va­tive coun­try,” says co-founder Mandy de Waal.

El­e­ments of the cam­paign in­clude the iHERO award that dis­cov­ers, re­wards and fi­nances in­no­va­tors. It’s an ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive that seeks to match in­no­va­tors with in­vestors; an in­no­va­tion fair that show­cases award-win­ning in­no­va­tors; a photo and nar­ra­tive ex­hi­bi­tion on in­no­va­tion; and a na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing and pub­lic­ity ini­tia­tive aimed at putting in­no­va­tion back on the lo­cal agenda. Spon­sors of the In­no­va­tionTOWN pro­gramme in­clude, among oth­ers, Shu­jaa Hold­ings – a phil­an­thropic or­gan­i­sa­tion – the Bran­son School of En­trepreneur­ship; the South African Post Of­fice (SAPO); African Bank; the Sci-Bono Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre in New­town, and the sus­tain­able eco­nomic en­vi­ron­men­tal de­vel­op­ment (SEED) frame­works.

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