Wednesday, 9 April 2014: The MEC for Economic Development (GDED), Mxolisi Eric Xayiya along with the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD), Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, toured the construction site of the BioPark at The Innovation Hub, in Tshwane, on Tuesday 8 April 2014.
Scheduled for completion at the end of May 2014, with occupation by start-up companies, the BioPark project has been a strategic project of the Gauteng Provincial Government since 2009, when GDARD led the development of a feasibility study.
Speaking at the site visit, MEC Mayathula-Khoza recognised the support of previous MECs for Economic Development, Qedani Mahlangu and the late Hon. Nkosiphendule Kolisile as well as the current MEC, Mxolisi Xayiya for ensuring that The Innovation Hub pursued the project to this stage. The Innovation Hub is a subsidiary of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency, an implementation agency of GDED. She noted “I am pleased that Phase 1 of the BioPark will focus on stimulating entrepreneurship and value creation in the agro-processing sector, as it offers great prospects for job creation and food security.”
MEC Xayiya, in turn, praised his counterpart for having laid a solid foundation and providing seed funding that facilitated the development of the feasibility study, the business plan as well as architectural designs that were used to apply for funding.
The BioPark plans to position Gauteng as the gateway of agro processed products to rest of Africa and the world; expand local and export supply of biosciences products and services for economic growth and job creation and to strengthen Tshwane as an anchor for the biosciences cluster in Gauteng amongst other objectives. Speaking during the tour, Xayiya said “The BioPark is a good example of a partnership between provincial government departments, their entities and the national government in support of entrepreneurs. In this case, we are excited by the fact that the BioPark will also be home to the Climate Innovation Centre, which will focus on the environmental aspects of the Bioeconomy.”
Following the feasibility study, the Gauteng cabinet resolved that GDED and GDARD should proceed with the development of a business plan for the establishment of the BioPark at The Innovation Hub. A Business Plan was subsequently developed by The Innovation Hub. In 2013, The Innovation Hub partnered with eGoliBio (its biosciences incubation partner), GGDA and GDARD in its successful bid for funding from the dti’s Incubation Support Programme (ISP).
The BioPark will focus on supporting the development of the Bioeconomy sector in Gauteng. It also aims to enhance multiple helix collaboration (government, public research and industry collaboration) as well as to develop and grow a biosciences cluster anchored at The Innovation Hub.
Phase 1 and part of Phase 2 are funded by the dti’s ISP and the GGDA. Phase 1, which is currently under construction, will accommodate food / bio-processing companies and the Climate Innovation Centre (CIC), another flagship project of the Gauteng provincial government and the Green Accord. Phase 2 involves the provision of facilities for pharmaceutical, cosmetics and diagnostic companies. Start-up companies in the BioPark will be supported through a biotechnology incubation programme that is anchored on the successes of both eGoliBIO and The Innovation Hub’s Maxum incubation programmes.
Senior officials from the Department of Science and Technology and its agency, Technology Innovation Agency, Ben Durham and Dr Sibongile Gumbi, respectively, also briefed both MECs on the importance of the BioPark for the implementation of the 2013 National Bioeconomy Strategy unveiled by Minister Hanekom earlier this year. Both MECs expressed excitement about the progress that has been made towards realising the vision of the BioPark and in particular its critical role towards ensuring delivery on the agriculture, health, and environmental objectives of the Bioeconomy Strategy.