It is a great honour for me to address you at this prestigious awards ceremony of the Gauteng Accelerator Program (GAP) Innovation Competitions and a special welcome to all the finalists that have made it this far.
I would like to first acknowledge the effort of The Innovation Hub for staging this prestigious event to recognise, reward and celebrate top innovators in the ICT, Biosciences, Green, Medical technologies sectors and the Gauteng Accelerator Township innovation competitions. These competitions seek innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs that are working on novel ideas that will improve the efficiency of government service delivery, increase the competitiveness of the local economy and enhance the quality of life of ordinary citizens. Today, The Innovation Hub is a beacon for innovators in Gauteng, a nurturing environment for entrepreneurs and a driver of some of Gauteng’s key priority areas.
When it comes to solving the challenges of today as well as driving the successes of tomorrow, the primary force at work is that human drive we call “innovation”. The objective of the GAP Innovation Competitions is to support Gauteng in becoming an innovative and economically competitive province and a leader in sustainable technologies by nurturing and supporting local innovations. The competitions are one of the initiatives proposed in the Gauteng Innovation and Knowledge Economy Strategy to stimulate interest in innovation within targeted sectors and to improve service delivery by local and provincial government. The competitions contribute to the growth of The Innovation Hub’s incubation programmes by serving as a pipeline for potential incubatees at The Innovation Hub’s Maxum Business Incubator, Climate Innovation Centre South Africa, BioPark@Gauteng, eKasiLab and mLab.
The Global Innovation Index Report for the year 2017 indicates that the top 10 countries in the highest ranking are Switzerland, Sweden, UK, Netherlands, United States of America, Finland, Singapore, Denmark, Germany and Ireland. Brazil is ranked 69, India 60, China 22, and South Africa 57. A total of 32 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa are included in the rankings, none of which made it to the top 30, and 25 of the African countries are ranked in the bottom 100. Efforts to bridge the innovation divide must start with helping emerging economies understand their innovation strengths and weaknesses and create appropriate policies and metrics. Since 2012, Sub-Saharan Africa has counted more “innovation achiever” countries than any other region. Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, Madagascar and Senegal stand out for being innovation achievers this year, and several times in the previous years. Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania become innovation achievers this year. Preserving and building upon this innovation momentum in Sub-Saharan Africa is now key. This suggests that African countries make good use of the limited infrastructure and investment they have, and that efforts made to build linkages and create enabling environments are rewarded with increased innovation outputs. This also illustrates that in the midst of the social and economic challenges we face, lies opportunities to innovate and create new industries.
Ladies and gentleman, we have a lot of work to do to if we are to improve the Gauteng province’s economic growth and development. Growing the economy implies innovating continuously so that goods & services are affordable to the people of the country. It means government playing its role in creating an enabling ecosystem to foster innovation and entrepreneurship to improve service delivery, particularly looking at things such as infrastructure, hospitals, transport and community safety, thus improving our competitiveness as a province.
Since 2011, the four categories of GAP have attracted more than 1 500 entries and invested over R10 million in seed funding and incubation support to over 55 startups.
We would like to thank the Technology Innovation Agency and Emory University, particularly for their for their contribution to the lives of innovators and entrepreneurs in the Bio-economy sector. We also want to take this opportunity to thank Schneider, intel and mLab Southern Africa for their support in GAP Green and ICT competitions. As the province, we kindly urge other stakeholders to follow suit to assist GAP innovation competitions grow and contribute to the growth of The Innovation Hub’s incubation programmes by serving as a pipeline for potential incubatees at The Innovation Hub’s Maxum business incubator, Climate Innovation Centre, mLab, the Biopark@Gauteng and eKasiLabs Programme,
As a province, we cannot achieve our innovation goals by working alone. We need to increase our R&D productivity and increase the number of science and engineering graduates from our educational institutions. The only way to build the country’s innovative capacity is through partnership between the public sector, private sector, and academic institutions as well as our international partners. Critical to this partnership are our entrepreneurs, who through their tenacity, drive and passion, can transform the economic and social standing of our province.
Programme director, the calibre of entries into the competitions demonstrates that there is capacity and capability in Africa, this is encouraging. It is my wish that these innovations find their way into the Gauteng economy and contribute to the global competitiveness of the economy. With unemployment rates so high, we need these innovations to stimulate growth. I encourage aspiring innovators to learn from tonight’s winners and find their way to contribute in the economy, to move from ideations to getting things done by taking actions to enable the government and public sector to improve its service delivery.
The winning team’s ICT, Green, Biosciences, Medical, GATE Innovation Competition categories, selected here today, will receive cash prizes, milestone-tied seed funding and government funded incubation support at The Innovation Hub.
Programme director, I wish to congratulate all the winners of the Gauteng Accelerator Programme Innovation Competitions and GATE Innovation Competition, and to those who did not win, I want you to know that you are all winners, since through your efforts, you will make a difference in this province.
I thank you.