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INTERVIEW Allied to this is the City of Cape Town’s strategy to position Cape Town as Africa’s first smart city. The City had a draft strategy for this but it wanted input from regional players. The tricky thing is they couldn’t go directly to specific corporates because that would have meant those corporates would have needed to be excluded from the procurement process. I suggested that they speak to us because we are not-for-profit and I could organise a workshop with various role-players. The Thought Leaders sessions are popular with Cape Town The first workshop was held businesspeople. at the new Deloitte Greenhouse facility and something amazing happened. As the City officials outlined various where they house all the inventions, all the innovainitiatives, the private sector representatives tions and the spinout companies that come from started putting up their hands and saying things the university environment. Commercialisation out of that incubation space like, “We already have a product that does that”, or “We were planning to do that in five years anyway into mainstream commerce is a challenge and that’s based on our business strategy but now we know where the link with corporates becomes significant. The advanced manufacturing and technology it’s needed we can fast-track it”. So, whereas you might have expected government to take the that’s coming out of those TTOs has blown me away. lead in certain initiatives and for the corporates They attract finance because they’re good products to be gearing themselves up for the procurement, but what happens is, because it is headed by a sciit became clear the private sector could take the ences or engineering graduate, it flounders because lead now that they had the knowledge of where there isn’t a depth of business experience. We initially approached our corporate network government was intending to go. We have now replicated that model for other key to find out if there were individuals who were willinitiatives such as big data, which is relevant to the ing to act as directors with a view to mentoring SKA project. One of the most interesting aspects of these young entrepreneurs and also to potentially the Square Kilometre Array project is that the facility buying an equity stake. What we discovered is that generates data at an absolutely unprecedented rate corporate managers are often governance focused, and we have facilitated some very fruitful discus- whereas what a start-up needs is to grow its market, sions around associated opportunities. to increase efficiency and product development, and to implement systems required for growth. Innovation Unfortunately, some of the corporate people were Allied to that is our fourth focus area, which is in- stifling the start-up with that mindset so we are going novation. We’ve narrowed the focus specifically to to develop a start-up mentorship course (an accredacademia and business, and have also created links ited standardised course) that seasoned professionals with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). We can take in order to help them understand start-ups. are working specifically with the Technology Transfer We are also having conversations with players Office (TTO) at each university. Each university has in the e-learning space to drive effective e-learning been mandated to establish a technology office initiatives in our region. WESTERN CAPE BUSINESS 2017


Western Cape Business 2017  
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