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The Innovation Ecosystem in South Africa: Work in Progress

Arno Meerman

Some interesting initiatives are emerging in South Africa. Although today they are isolated, they expect to be the seeds of a future well-connected national innovation ecosystem

South Africa has made great strides over the last decade in developing a national system of innovation – partly due to a supportive and driven Ministry of Science and Technology, and partly due to the increasing awareness by universities that their mandate goes beyond teaching and research. Most of the leading universities have established an innovation or technology transfer office as they realise that they can, and must, make a contribution to society and the broader economic environment. Legislation that obliges recipients of public research funds to identify, protect, manage and commercialise that research has also provided an impetus for these activities at publicly funded institutions, and support has been provided to universities to develop appropriate skills and capacity to do this.

Yet, there are major gaps in the national system of innovation – the private sector is conspicuously absent, there are no early stage venture capital players, there are too few skilled people, too few areas with a critical mass of high quality research, and there are limited areas with appropriate startup infrastructure and support systems. In other words, South Africa’s innovation ecosystem – one that has the appropriate people, skills, support structures and companies to drive innovation projects to the market – still has major challenges.

Read more about the South African innovation ecosystem and their challenges in the UIIM Magazine

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