Michael Suttner has been awarded the R50 000 first prize in an innovation seed funding competition sponsored by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, at the CLIPCD Conference in Durban, for his affordable lighting innovation.

His invention, for which he is now trying to raise capital to put it into production, had already scooped a R100 000 prize in the 2012 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

The solution is a brightly glowing Coke bottle and held it high above his head, illuminating the area around him.

This, he told the judges, was The Lightie, a test tube-sized contraption containing flexible, rapid charging solar panels that give 40 hours of light after eight hours of charging in sunlight, which charges a micro lithium ion battery with a four to five year life. It fits snugly into any soft drink or water bottle, something which is freely available all over Africa.

The Lightie would cost between less than R20 to produce and he plans to sell it for between R80 and R100 which, taking the daily amount his target consumer spent each month on candles, would have paid for itself within six months. So far he has spent R50 000 of his own money on developing his prototype and says it will need R500 000 for the next step in getting his invention to market.

The second prize of R25 000 was awarded to Anand Naidu of Vortex Software, a cloud-based, web managed teaching platform. Naidu, who has spent years developing the software, says he had not drawn a salary for the past five years.

The software comprises two elements: one an online and mobile based e-learning and teaching platform and the other an administration system that allows schools and educational to provide live and in real time all the schedules, reports and statuary requirements they are required to provide.

The third prize of R15 000 went to Pieter Jordaan of Gaias Power, which involves setting up small power generating systems on almost any river to generate and harvest energy. Easy to maintain and repair, it requires only semi-skilled personnel to run it.

A fourth, special Social Innovation prize was awarded to schoolteacher Pauline Skosana, who has invented a “dynamic spelling system based on phonetics and which caters for all 11 of South Africa’s official languages. It allows pupils, who are able to work at their own pace to develop and improve reading, writing and spelling skills.”

* Article courtesy of By Raymond Joseph, reporting from the CLIPDC Conference.