Grassroots inventors get much needed boost

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Department of Science of Technology has launched the Grassroots Innovation Programme aimed at assisting people with innovation ideas to market their ideas. 

The programme is designed to identify innovators and inventors that do not have formal education or have access to formal innovation facilities. 

Speaking on behalf of Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) south campus in Soshanguve, the department’s Deputy Director General, Imraan Patel, said the establishment of the Grassroots Innovation Programme (GIP) was a realisation by the Department of Science and Technology that there are many people who have innovation ideas but lack the know-how of getting their ideas to market. 

“Through the programme, innovators are linked to subject matter experts and advanced facilities where their innovations/inventions are further developed to support market entry.

“The innovators are provided with skills development to understand their subject matter better and with entrepreneurship development skills to provide them with the knowledge to commercially market their inventions,” Patel said. 

Patel defined a grassroots innovator as an individual who comes up with ideas to solve local challenges, using local resources and capabilities, working outside the realm of formal innovation and research institutions.  

“The assistance provided to the grassroots innovators includes technical skills development, research and development (R&D), prototype development, entrepreneurship development, access to markets, technology development, product development, software support, quality management systems, modelling and simulation, Intellectual Property (IP) protection, knowledge and skills transfer, design and tooling machinery as well as access to technical expertise,” Patel said. 

Patel said they will call on the public sector to become an enabler for the GIP by providing markets for products developed through the programme. 

“We will speak to our colleagues in the provinces and local authorities to ensure that their plans provide an enabling environment for grassroots innovations. 

“We will also ensure that the science councils and technology stations serve as innovation intermediaries to support GIP,” Patel said.

Professor Murendiwa Mukhola, the Deputy Vice Chancellor at TUT, said the institution is proud to host the Grassroots Innovation Programme. 

“TUT produces the most number of entrepreneurs compared to any other university in the country. We are close to government, industry and business, particularly because of our location in the City of Tshwane, a key economic hub on the continent. 

“We are delighted that the Grassroots Innovation Programme will, in most instances, utilise technology stations to provide technical support to the grassroots innovators,” Mukhola said. 

According to the Department of Science and Technology, the launch is the culmination of a process spurred by a call for local innovations, which was subsequently published on the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) website. 

About 300 hundred applications were received from all nine provinces. The department says it will be supporting at least 100 innovators to develop their concepts through the GIP. 

Most of the proposals received were in the Information and Communication Technologies sector. 

The department is scaling up the GIP following a successful pilot implemented by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) between 2016 and 2018, during which several projects were funded to the value of R2 million.  

One of these, there is the Geyser Hot Spot, which is currently on the market. The invention can be retrofitted on both horizontal and vertical high-pressure geysers, allowing consumers to access about 50 litres of water at a temperature of at least 50 degrees Celsius in less than 30 minutes. –