Gauteng is South Africa’s economic powerhouse, generating roughly 35% of the country’s GDP despite being the smallest province. Yet unemployment, poverty, and inequality remain persistently high – something that could be changed through strategic collaboration to grow the innovation and entrepreneurship that drives economic development.
Mapping out this collaboration is the focus of a Gauteng Innovation Action Plan (IAP), developed by KTN Global Alliance Africa. The plan – a product of wide stakeholder engagement and contributions from the public sector, academia and industry – looks to strengthen the local innovation ecosystem through clear short, medium, and long-term objectives.
The objectives speak to job creation, poverty reduction, increased collaboration opportunities for local innovation ecosystem partners and the contribution towards local innovation streams that can grow into commercial UK-SA partnerships and expand UK-SA trade.
The plan offers a deliverable roadmap to increase innovation capacity development and innovation support in the province, with the aim of a shared vision – an inclusive innovation ecosystem driving economic growth and prosperity in Gauteng.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship have been identified as the key drivers of Gauteng’s economic development and there is an opportunity to create collaborative action to strengthen the local innovation ecosystem and its capacity to generate economic benefits for all parts of Gauteng,” says Dr Nee-Joo Teh, project director of KTN Global Alliance Africa.
The Gauteng Innovation Action Plan examines the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and businesses and maps out a series of recommendations to strengthen the capacity and resilience of the Gauteng innovation ecosystems through increased collaboration and partnerships.
These challenges were the focus of a panel discussion during the launch of the plan under the theme “Innovation in practice, how to create an inclusive innovation ecosystem.
Machaka Mosehana, director of Johannesburg Business School’s Centre of Entrepreneurship; Mawethu Soga, head of commercialisation and growth at Fixxr; Senisha Moonsamy, head of innovation skills development and enterprise development at the Technology Innovation Agency; Professor Barry Dwolatzky, director of innovation strategy at the University of the Witwatersrand, Lesley Williams, CEO at Tshimologong Precinct; and Tseliso Mohlomi, director of special projects: strategic partnerships and international relations at the Gauteng Department of Economic Development, discussed the challenges facing the innovation sector.
“The extent to which countries can successfully catalyse and harness innovation is fundamentally connected to the ability to tap into local knowledge through collaboration, cooperation and long-term networking arrangements. The Gauteng Innovation Action Plan provides us with a clear roadmap of how we can better cooperate with key stakeholders across Gauteng’s rapidly growing innovation ecosystem to deliver growth and prosperity for all.” says Antony Phillipson, British high commissioner to South Africa.
Just some of the challenges identified during the process of developing the IAP included inconsistent access to funding, support, and resources as well as a lack of suitable mentorship opportunities.
But there are ways to mitigate these challenges. These include interventions that can be implemented by the local technology, science and innovation community, such as networking events, mentorship models, awards programmes and competitions, focusing on female innovators, implementing regional innovation support programmes, training and developing local innovation champions and holding open innovation challenges to accelerate Net Zero solutions.
Some of the key recommendations in the Regional Innovation Audit Report are the development of networking opportunities, which could help bridge gaps in understanding and expectation differences between funders and potential beneficiaries, as well as convening advisory groups at the sector level.
The Regional Innovation Audit Report also recommended engaging open innovation models to promote innovation in the service delivery and related green economy, and food systems and urban farming sectors. It also suggests supporting networking across selected townships around innovation, for example working with eKasi labs to facilitate sharing across locations where they are active.
Dr Nee-Joo Teh, Project Director of KTN Global Alliance Africa concludes that “numerous opportunities exist for KTN Global Alliance Africa to add value to the Gauteng Place-Based Innovation ecosystem, and there are individuals and organisations with an appetite to partner to improve the functioning of the ecosystem. KTN Global Alliance Africa strives to facilitate knowledge exchange and strategic partnerships as we work towards a shared innovation ecosystem.”