Whether it was performing the world’s first human heart transplant operation or the invention of the CAT scan, South African companies have a long history of utilising innovation and technology to come up with a competitive edge to establish brand loyalty amongst increasingly informed consumers, particularly within the healthcare sector.

“We believe that everyone has the potential to change the way we live for the better,” says JJ van Dongen, senior vice-president and CEO of Philips Africa. “There are many budding entrepreneurs out there armed with what may turn out to be the next big idea that will go on to make a real difference to the current challenges experienced within the local healthcare sector.”

Moreover, Van Dongen believes that innovative technologies have the power to improve the living conditions of South African communities.

This is the reason behind Philips Africa’s partnership with the Innovation Hub in Pretoria, which has culminated in the first South African Innovation Fellows Competition tasked with helping to unlock technological innovations produced by South Africans.

The South African Innovation Fellows competition aims to unlock local talent and address regionally relevant challenges in healthcare. Innovators who believe that they have come up with the next big meaningful innovation stand a chance of winning R200 000 as a research & development budget for their next big idea in improving access to primary healthcare.

According to the findings of Philips’ Africa Innovation Research study six out of every 10 South Africans interviewed (base of 1000) claim they are innovators. Over half (57%) of respondents claim that lack of money is a barrier to innovation, while four out of 10 (42%) want more corporate involvement to boost innovation.

Van Dongen says that innovation is a catalyst for economic development and will be one of the key factors that play a leading role in boosting the competitiveness of South Africa’s economy.

“Innovation has never been more essential for businesses looking to differentiate themselves from competitors,” he says. “It helps companies establish brand loyalty amongst increasingly empowered consumers, who utilise many more channels to become informed about a company’s products and services, as well as how it stacks up to similar offerings.”

Interested participants can register at http://www.innovationfellows.co.za/ and submit their #nextbigidea in word or PDF format covering the following topics:
• The challenge being addressed
• The technology solution
• The social impact expected

If your idea is selected, Van Dongen adds, you will be contacted directly to move on to the next phase of the competition.