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Are South Africans innovators?

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Philips South Africa has announced the South African results of an Innovation Research study (conducted in five African countries), which aimed to understand what South African citizens think of innovation, perceived barriers to innovation and areas where successful innovation could improve lives.
Following the results, Philips has committed to providing an opportunity for South Africans to highlight their meaningful innovations in the field of healthcare with the launch of the South African Innovation Fellows Competition.

“Africa is filled with opportunities and we have long seen this potential. Upon entering South Africa over 100 years ago, we have been committed to delivering meaningful innovations,” says JJ Van Dongen, senior vice-president and CEO Philips Africa. “Following our research, we now want to show our support in offering South Africans the opportunity to showcase their own tangible innovations that can fundamentally change and improve the lives of others. We are committed to delivering on our promise of ‘innovation and you’ and will support the entrants as they realise their success.”

Survey findings
With 60% of South Africans considering themselves to be innovators, 59% are female versus 62% male – and 20% of them expressed that they are not reliant on others to create solutions. Innovation is also deeply rooted in people who are educated, independent in their businesses or hold senior positions in companies.

71% of Indians in South Africa and 80% of those living in KwaZulu-Natal are leading in terms of seeing themselves as innovative. Those respondents who lived with less fortunate circumstances (underdeveloped areas / unemployed) tend to find their own solutions to problems.

High confidence levels where noted amongst young black and Indian people living in more developed areas, whose innovations were often conceptualised. Based on the results, finding daily innovative solutions to everyday problems was higher amongst young people (74%) in comparison to older respondents (26%).

Barriers to innovation
57% of correspondents indicated a lack of money as a key barrier, 29% highlighted poor infrastructure, 23% mentioned an unsupportive corporate culture and 22% government regulations as barriers to innovation. More expectation was placed on big companies to offer the right support (42%) with expectations on government opportunities much lower (31%).

Most respondents found it easier to come up with innovations to social problems that impact their immediate communities with the likelihood of turning ideas into something tangible quite high. However, functionalities like money and motivation proved to be barriers.

Areas for improvement
Majority of participants identified Education (65.7%) and Healthcare (64.2%) fields as areas of opportunity in innovation and where the most beneficial results would be seen.
54.2% of correspondents believed innovation should improve one’s life and the lives of others with thirty-six point four% (36.4%) believing it should make daily life easier and more efficient.

In Comparison to the continent
In comparison to other markets on the continent (Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt), Nigeria showed the highest overall score (69%) in believing they are innovators followed by South Africa (60%), Kenya (54%), Egypt (28%) and finally Morocco (27%).

All countries identified the same two sectors of Health and Education as areas that would have the highest impact on their lives (healthcare – 69.6% and education -58%).
Generally, four 10 people interviewed (across the five markets) are optimistic about their ideas being the ‘the next big thing’ with more than half of Kenyans (58%) and Nigerians (57%) being more positive followed by South Africans (46%).

73% of people across some of the markets say that the lack of money is the biggest barrier to innovation.

Innovation Fellows competition
“52% of South Africans consider themselves to be innovators and as a company we are in full support of realising these ideas to make a real difference in people’s lives,” adds Van Dongen.

Philips Africa in collaboration with The Innovation Hub in Pretoria is launching its first South African Innovation Fellows competition to unlock the talent and address locally relevant challenges in Healthcare.

If you believe that you have the next big meaningful innovation, Philips wants to know about it. Philips will be providing R200 000 as a research & development budget to the #nextbigidea in improving access to primary healthcare.

“We believe that everyone has the potential to change the way we live for the better. Submit your next big idea and we will help you make a real difference to the current challenges identified in our African Innovation Research report,” concludes Van Dongen.

“Innovation is a catalyst for economic development and increases the competitiveness of our local economy. As The Innovation Hub and an agency of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development collaborating with Philips on the first South African Innovation Fellows Competition will enable us to unlock technological innovations sitting amongst South Africans. These are the innovations that will assist in improving the living conditions of the South African communities,” says McLean Sibanda, CEO of The Innovation Hub.

Starting from today, interested participants can register at www.innovationfellows.co.za and submit their #nextbigidea in word or PDF addressing the following topics:

* The challenge being addressed;
* The technology solution; and
* The social impact expected.

If your idea is selected, you will be contacted directly to move on to the next phase.