7 Western Cape innovations awarded government grants

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Seven innovations in the Western Cape have been provided with grants of up to ZAR500,000 (US$37,000) each from the second round of the Design Innovation Seed Fund (DISF).

The DISF is a project of the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) with investment and management funds respectively provided by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

The first round saw a total of ZAR6.5 million (US$560,000) awarded to develop 12 innovative ideas in the province, while this second edition again invited individuals and SMMEs to apply for grants with pre-revenue innovative technologies and tech-enabled ideas and products with the potential to positively impact the agri-processing, health and bio-tech, and the manufacturing sectors.

The seven innovations selected for funding are anti-blindness device OptiShunt, water soluble liquid oak extract by Oranet, nutritional product development DNABurn, a fuel cell powered drone for delivery of sterile insects into export citrus, HIV testing solution MicroPatch, a suction dissector device developed by DISA Vascular, and the SmartBlade Video Laryngoscope developed by SmartBlade.

Erica Elk, executive director of the CCDI, said this second round of grants had a specific focus on assisting groundbreaking South African-developed designs and ideas in four priority areas.

“After a successful first round, where we learnt lots of valuable lessons, we decided that in our second round of funding we didn’t want to just support innovation for its own sake; but rather to align with national and provincial priority sectors that will support economic growth,” she said.

“This round of funding saw a specific focus on the agri-processing, health and bio-tech, and the manufacturing sectors. We had some incredible applications, 57 in total, and we narrowed this down through a thorough due diligence process, to a shortlist of those with the best potential.”

Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde said investing in innovators was one of the best ways to grow the economy.

“Far too many young businesses, and the jobs that would come with them, fall to the wayside due to a lack of finance. We launched this fund three years ago, in collaboration with likeminded partners, to give entrepreneurs from our region the kick-start they need to develop their ideas into reality,” he said.

“The winners of this year’s grants prove that the spirit of innovation is alive and well in the Western Cape. In line with Project Khulisa, our economic growth strategy, we targeted agri-processing innovations, as well as health and bio-tech ideas. The number of very good applications we received speaks to the wealth of globally competitive R&D currently being undertaken in our province. The Western Cape has become a hotbed for development. I would like to congratulate this year’s winners, and wish them well as they take their products to the next stage.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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