South Africa’s sixth Innovation Summit, being held at the Industrial Development Corporation in Sandton from 27 to 29 August, will for the second consecutive year feature “the Pitching Den”.

This is a hugely useful forum that enables entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors, incubators and innovators across all industries to pitch their ideas to a seasoned panel of judges.

Sponsored by international integrated energy and chemical company, Sasol, “the Pitching Den” enables candidates to pitch for funding, incubation or support for their inventions and ideas.

The National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), the Innovation Hub, and Venture capitalists are all supporters in prizes and join Sasol as part of the judging panel.

Successful entrants will then pitch their idea at one of six sessions held between 27 to 29 August, with five pitches expected to be included in each morning and afternoon session. Members of the public are encouraged to attend these sessions and observe.

“Having worked in the incubation space for more than 15 years, Sasol ChemCity, Sasol’s enterprise and supplier development vehicle, is acutely aware of the challenges that could-be business mogul’s face in taking their idea to market,” says Herman Berry, Sasol ChemCity’s senior manager for Technology Development and Innovation.

“These challenges are much greater for innovators and inventors who often battle to find the right people to share their innovations with – people who could be potential investors in their success. Sasol is excited to sponsor the Summit’s Pitching Den as it offers all inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs this opportunity to engage and showcase their ideas to industry players who could enable their success.”

Pitching sessions are seen as a critical enabler to close the innovation chasm between innovators and the market or potential partners by creating a platform for engagement, ensuring market insights or feedback to innovators, enabling the thrust for business potential through partner identification, and identifying funders and the support mechanisms available in the market.

Significantly, the pitching sessions will enable participants to:
* Access seed funding opportunities and prototype development support (the judges will commit to second interviews if the pitches are of interest);
* Connect with incubators that support specific types of innovative ideas;
* Gain access to technical expertise (advisors, IP specialists and venture capitalists);
* Win a trademark or patent search from copyright attorneys Spoor and Fisher;
* Win a share of R100,000 in cash prizes provided by Sasol;
* Access other types of business support;
* Win access to design intervention from design experts (industrial designers, visual communication designers, packaging designers);
* Showcase their technologies / ideas to a wider audience; and
* Tap into different markets (the audience will watch to make connections).

A rigorous process has been underway by the Summit organisers to screen and select participants who will make their pitch to the judges. Excited aspirants registered online on the Summit’s Web site.

Some criteria used by the selection team for included that the idea, invention or product must be owned by the party applying to participate in “the Pitching Den”, that is have patent, copyright, design registrations and so on.

In addition, the innovation or pitch must be demonstrable either as a working prototype or ready to commercialise product or solution.

Delegates and visitors at the Summit can anticipate exciting new innovations being tabled this year.

“We look forward to ideas that span a myriad of sectors, from waste management and to ICT, social innovation and other industry pitches,” says Dr Audrey Verhaeghe, CEO of RIIS and organiser of the Innovation Summit.

“We hope that it unveils some excellent new innovations and provides the foundation for some exciting advances to be made by some far-sighted South Africans,” she concludes.