From a smart electricity system that could help to avoid load shedding to a hygienic toilet lid that can prevent sanitary infections, the 2021 finalists of the Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) Innovation Competition have developed a diverse range of novel ideas and business solutions with the potential to be industry game-changers.

This is the word from The Innovation Hub CEO Pieter Holl, as he unveiled the prestigious competition’s top 36, placing the aspiring entrepreneurs a major step closer to winning a life-changing share of R3-million in seed funding.

“We have been highly impressed by the 2021 cohort of GAP Innovation Competition candidates, who have all demonstrated the depth of innovative ideas and ingenuity that our country has to offer. It has been a privilege to watch them thrive and participate in our business basics programme to prepare for their journey ahead even amidst the challenging circumstances of the pandemic. We expect to see great things from them in the future,” he says.

“I would particularly like to applaud our finalists for their hard work and dedication shown during the programme. Their creativity and resilience are truly inspirational, with diverse and disruptive businesses that hold enormous potential to become the market leaders of tomorrow.”

Senisha Moonsamy, head: enterprise development ISD & GCIP at TIA, comments: “We are proud and excited to be part of the GAP initiative. An important factor in bridging the innovation chasm is the continuous establishment of collaborations and partnerships within the National System of Innovation such as we have with the Innovation Hub in the GAP programme.

“Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) supports the translation of South Africa’s knowledge resources into sustainable bio-based solutions that address societal challenges while contributing to sustainable economic growth. In our partnership with GAP, we focus on the innovations in the Bio sciences and medical sectors. This is in line with TIA’s commitment to delivering on the Department of Science and Innovation’s Bio-economy strategy.”

Launched in 2011, the Gauteng Accelerator Programme aims to foster innovation in the fields of ICT, Bioscience, Medical, Green Economy, and the Township Economy. Over the past decade, the programme has provided R22-million in seed funding and helped to launch over 116 businesses through incubation support.

Examples of previous winners include Olova, a digital payment platform for multiple public transport systems such as bus and rail, and Cabblow Studios which offers their medical animation , public education and original animated health content.

All GAP candidates are required to undergo an intensive year-long business education programme, during which they receive training in areas ranging from strategy and product pricing methods to pitching and presentation skills. An independent panel of judges then selects programme finalists based on their business strategy, market potential, the impact of their technology, and their team.

Among the 2021 finalists is Matilda Rakabe of Mat JZN Trading, a candidate in the Township Economy category, who has designed a hygienic toilet lid that can prevent both men and women from getting sanitary infections such as yeast infections.

Competing in the ICT category is Wakoomulla, a mobile phone wallet that allows customers to make their purchases either via its app or through its Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) system without the use of cash, cards, or EFTs.

Finally, a competitor in the Green Economy category offers a unique answer for alleviating some of the country’s electricity woes, with an Internet of Energy solution that can monitor the status of the national grid and automatically switch off all non-essential appliances to help prevent load shedding.

The winning entrepreneurs for 2021 will be announced at a virtual event on 24 February 2022. Winners will each receive a share in seed funding and cash prizes, as well as incubation services with technical and business mentors, intellectual property, and access to The Innovation Hub’s network of industry and government partners.

“More South Africans need to embrace entrepreneurship if we are to solve the country’s challenges, as innovative start-ups are crucial to kickstarting economic growth, creating new employment opportunities and enhancing South Africa’s competitiveness,” says Holl.

“We would like to wish our finalists all the best of luck for the competition, and we are looking forward to welcoming them to our business incubations programmes.