SA govt partners Global Innovation Fund to back social innovations

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South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the UK-based Global Innovation Fund (GIF) have signed a three-year partnership to support innovations that can deal with major health and social issues.

GIF invests in innovations that aim to improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people living on less than US$5 per day in the developing world, providing grants or risk capital investment to innovators and social entrepreneurs.

The agreement with the DST was signed in July during the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) in Manchester. The partnership will support innovations that are being piloted, as well as perhaps those that are being expanded to reach new markets.

Over 500 organisations from across Africa have submitted proposals for innovations, with successful applicants to be offered access to risk capital. The two partners will co-invest in GIF-selected innovations that are in line with key strategic priorities for the country. The DST will make available grants of up to ZAR15 million (US$1.1 million).

Imraan Patel, the DST’s deputy director-general for socio-economic innovation partnerships, said South Africa was looking forward to implementing this partnership to support global efforts to secure sustainable development.

“This partnership fits in snugly with the work that the department is already engaged in around scaling and testing local innovations that lead to an improved quality of life for poor South Africans,” he said. “I am certain that there is a lot we will learn from the GIF, and it, too, will learn from South Africa.”

GIF chief executive Dr Alix Zwane said the partnership represented an important step for the fund as it focused more on innovations with the potential to impact the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people.

“Working with the DST, we will find, pilot, test and scale promising new African-led or African-focused approaches to dealing with major health and social issues on the continent,” he said.

“I hope that this new sub-fund will challenge South African entrepreneurs to think about new solutions to benefit the poorest people in society.”

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