Harnessing University Innovation

Harnessing University Innovation

Harnessing University Innovation 1060 594 Tamela

Commercializing research, intellectual property (IP), and technology from universities is a nascent but growing trend in South Africa, which is set to play a pivotal role in driving innovation and economic growth. Universities in South Africa are increasingly becoming hubs for pioneering research that can be translated into marketable products and services. The process involves identifying promising research, securing intellectual property rights, and partnering with industry or establishing startups to bring these innovations to market.

One prominent fund on the international stage is Oxford Sciences Enterprises, who partnered with over 200 of Oxford’s leading academics, creating a portfolio exceeding £2bn. This portfolio has approximately 40 companies across Life Sciences, Health Tech, and Deep Tech sectors. Notable among its investments is Barinthus Biotherapeutics, recognized for Vaccitech, the co-creator of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which went public in May 2021. Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s Stanford Ph.D. project on search engine algorithms, later evolving into Google, exemplifies how university research can be commercialized, shaping the digital landscape worldwide.

South African university-driven innovations also shine, such as Stellenbosch University’s SunSat program which has advanced satellite technology since 1999. More recently in 2022, the University of Cape Town’s H3-D drug discovery technology, led to new malaria treatments. These cases highlight the global market impact of university-driven innovations.

South African universities are internationally recognized for their research and have great potential in creating a research and innovation ecosystem that supports startups and commercializes research. A key initiative in this ecosystem is the University Technology Fund (UTF), which bridges the gap between academic research and commercial viability. The UTF invests in high-potential technologies from South African universities, providing the capital and support needed to turn innovative ideas into successful businesses.

To grow this industry in South Africa, the focus needs to be on fostering robust linkages between academia, industry, and venture capital. Enhanced collaboration can help identify and nurture potential innovations early. Additionally, establishing more specialized funds like the UTF can provide targeted financial support and mentorship to emerging startups.

Encouraging a culture of entrepreneurship within universities, alongside strong IP management policies, can also drive commercialization. Leveraging university research for commercial purposes, not only benefits the economy; but also enhances the global competitiveness of South African technology, fostering a vibrant ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship.

How can we help?

Tamela is dedicated to facilitating the commercialization of research and technology in South Africa, recognizing the immense potential within academic institutions. By investing in the UTF, Tamela aims to support and accelerate this transformation, fostering economic growth and technological advancement.

For more information contact Zama Mdletshe on +27 11 783 4907 or zama@tamela.co.za

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