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Innovation Office

04/03/2011

The Regional Innovation Forum was officially launched by Jacqueline Barnett, Director of Innovation Support and Technology Transfer at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, on the 3 March 2011 at the Radisson Blu Hotel. Jaci has been championing this initiative on behalf of the Department of Science and Technology with 12 other local organisations. The Forum aims to stimulate, support and promote innovation in the Eastern Cape by creating a network of role players and projects from industry, academia and government to create links and exploit synergies. The Forum will also be a voice for innovation in the region, and will assist innovators with access to finance and information to drive their ideas forward.

The event attracted attention from a wide variety of stakeholders across industry, academic and government sectors, and over sixty people attended the breakfast organised by the NMMU on behalf of the participating organisations. The event was managed by Lance Schultz of the Automotive Industry Development Centre as the Master of Ceremonies, and the talks covered aspects from the importance of innovation to the challenges facing innovators.

Addressing the audience on Regional Innovation Systems, Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde, Deputy Director General of the Department of Science and Technology, stressed the need to develop and intensify the connections between research, development and commercialisation on a regional level. Dr Auf der Heyde spoke about the Regional Innovation Forum as a network, not a committee or an organisation, and said DST is committed to helping the Regional Innovation Forum bridge the gap between research and industry. Councillor Anne-Marie van Jaarsveld of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole outlined her hope for the Forum and hopes it will “stretch the minds of possible future creations, and stimulate entrepreneurship, which will in turn create more job opportunities.” Other speakers included Johan Ferreira of Kestrel and Robert Bosch of Rubber Nano Products, who outlined the challenges for new technology development from research to commercialisation.

Jaci highlighted the planned activities of the Forum and invited all interested parties to get involved. She says that the Forum arose from the recognition by the Department of Science and Technology of the need to develop a structured and coherent regional system of innovation as innovation becomes increasingly important in the quest for global competitiveness and regional economic growth. A regional innovation system is the interaction between businesses, research and technology organisations, innovation support agencies, government and other role players who play a role in promoting the innovation process within a region. Collaboration and cohesion between these role players are essential for turning knowledge into competitive economic advantage. “I am often sceptical of networking initiatives such as these, but over the past year I have seen the power of bringing diverse people, expertise and projects together who would otherwise never have met – they can create more powerful and sustainable projects and can make a much larger economic impact working together,” said Jaci at the launch.

The Forum will organise networking events and training events, will publicise success stories and will provide a “voice” for innovation in the region. It will also link role players together to ensure there is less duplication of projects, and will drive specific projects such as a local science park. The Forum will also work with Provincial Government to drive innovation activities in line with provincial priorities.

The Forum is an initiative of twelve local organisations from government, industry and academia that have joined forces to drive the Regional Innovation Forum for the Nelson Mandela Bay and Cacadu District Municipality areas. The founding organisations are Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Automotive Industry Development Centre, Chemin, Eastern Cape Development Corporation, Small Enterprise Development Agency, Rhodes University, Development Bank of South Africa, Cacadu District Municipality, CSIR, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, Department of Science and Technology and the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council.

Guest speakers and invited guests

From back left: Laura Best (NMMU), Robert Bosch (RNP), Jacqueline Barnett (NMMU), Johan Ferreira (Eveready)
From front left: Johann Strauss (DST), Dr. Thomas Auf der Heyde (DST), Lance Schultz (AIDC), Councillor Anne-Marie van Jaarsveld (NMBM), Prof. Thoko Mayeksio.