South Africa’s first national business idea competition, aimed specifically at inventors and innovators, has announced its 2013 winners.

The winners and runners-up include a unique spray to rapidly detach braids from natural hair, a cattle “breathalyzer” that can diagnose diseases and eliminate the need for lengthy blood tests, and a South African “drone” used for aerial fire fighting.

The 2013 Step-Up Technology Innovation Competition, which is sponsored by Sasol and the Technology Innovation Agency of the Department of Science and Technology, received close to 400 entries from innovators throughout South Africa.

The winners were announced at the CSIR Convention Centre in Pretoria today.

Winners and runners-up will benefit from a total of R4.5 million in prizes and benefits, including coaching, mentorship, cash, tablet devices and business support from the Small Enterprise Development Agency.

“This has turned out to be the ‘Idols of innovation’ in South Africa,” says Project Director Martin Feinstein, whose company, Traction, runs the programme.

“There is enormous innovation talent out there, coming up with concepts that solve real-world problems and have great commercial potential. The programme will assist them to link up with investors, as well as receive mentorship and coaching.”

Both Sasol and the Technology Innovation Agency have been closely involved in selecting the winners, and TIA will evaluate them for its funding and technical support programmes to help accelerate their commercial application.

Says Feinstein: “We plan for Step-Up to become a channel and clearing house for anyone who has an innovation concept or business and who is looking for the recognition and support that will accelerate its growth. We hope the annual winners will be attractive to investors and large companies alike.”

Traction has partnered with a range of venture capital funds and entrepreneur support organisations, as well as Microsoft, the Innovation Hub, the SA Innovation Network and others.

A list of winners in their respective industry categories include:
* Chemicals – Kraalbos Bio-Health Products (Jeremy Klaasen);
* Mining and manufacturing – CSR-Africa Tank Repairs CC (Ismael Hassen & Rashaad Musa);
* ICT – Steadidrone (Duran & Alexa de Villiers);
* Energy – Delta Steam Systems (Bryan Anderson & Jacques Verwey);
* Health and biotechnology – Advanced Affordable Prosthetics (Drew van der Riet) and BB Unbraid Spray (Xoliswa Malinga & Malegola Mohlala);
* Green environment – Interloop Global (Michael Suttner); and
* Food and agriculture – Bio Research and Development CC (Amelia Rampersad).