LaunchLab launches Makerspace for high-tech manufacturing

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Stellenbosch University incubator LaunchLab has partnered RS Components, a global distributor for engineers and makers, to launch a Makerspace, a dedicated area equipped with high-tech, low-volume manufacturing equipment to facilitate prototyping and experimentation.

LaunchLab opened its new incubator facility in 2015 thanks to its founding sponsor Nedbank and matching funding from South Africa’s DTI Incubation Support Programme, and has since incubated over 200 startups.

It said a Makerspace was a natural progression for the hub, as it already had the environment to enhance creativity but needed a partner to provide high-tech tools and equipment to create physical prototypes. It has now agreed a deal with RD Components, which has provided tools, equipment and components to the value of ZAR300,000 (US$22,000).

The space opened last week, with an exhibition by makers and a showcase by IoT innovators Xinabox. A “makerthon” was also held, giving participants a few days to conceptualise and build a working prototype. Top honours went to the ‘Child Growth Development Monitoring System’ which is a mobile, self-service device that can be deployed across rural areas.

“LaunchLab is all about facilitating valuable connections,” said chief executive officer (CEO) Philip Marais.

“When we ran our first workshops about hardware development over the last few years we realised that there was a large group of people that was interested in this that did not attend our other events. Launching the Makerspace is opening the door to a permanent opportunity for that market of entrepreneurs to benefit from valuable connections and build world class tech. We are very grateful to RS Components for giving us the boost we needed to launch the Makerspace.”

Brian Andrew, managing director of RS Components in South Africa, said this was the first official Makerspace RS had sponsored in Africa.

“We partnered with the Stellenbosch LaunchLab because it has created the right environment for makers and engineer’s to experiment and evolve their tech ideas and concepts while getting access to the right expertise and funding to launch start-up businesses,” he said.

“We wanted to make sure that the innovators of tomorrow have access to the right tools and technology to bring their ideas to life. RS has always supported future innovation and we feel that the LaunchLab Makerspace is a good place to start and build a footprint of makerspaces not just in South Africa but throughout the rest of Africa.”  

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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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