The Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct has opened its doors in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, with the new premises to offer startup incubation, digital skills training, and research opportunities.
The planning and development of the precinct has taken three years, spearheaded by Wits University’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE); and supported by government, the private sector, and civil society.
The precinct will play home to programmers, designers, developers, entrepreneurs and startups; offering flexible open-plan co-working areas with broadband connectivity, meeting and refreshment zones, computer laboratories, training rooms, maker spaces, creative content development environments, and administrative and infrastructure support offices.
The initiative envisions 24/7 activity in the new precinct, with events running day and night, and providing “a hub where ideas are hatched and creativity has a space to breathe”.
The precinct also plays home to the 10-year ZAR700 million (US$61 million) IBM Research Lab project.
“We hope that transforming Braamfontein into Africa’s premier technology hub will inspire new talent, create jobs and lead to an economic renaissance,” says Barry Dwolatzky, Professor of software engineering at the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering, and director of JCSE.
“Tshimologong will be a start-up incubator, business accelerator and source of skills. The focus is on digital hardware, software and content. We are creating a hub space where people can get together, brainstorm and work on creative projects,” he says.
The precinct is open to university researchers and students, as well as members of the wider community on a membership-basis. The overall aim is to provide a space for skills development in the software and digital technology sector, help address unemployment, and encourage the growth of new businesses.
“Wits aims to inspire the development of a new generation of digital technology experts, innovators and entrepreneurs and Tshimologong will provide an enabling space for our country’s most creative young minds to develop new digital technologies that are crucial to South Africa’s economic growth and international competitiveness,” says Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor and principal at Wits University.
The opening of the precinct was celebrated with a “block party” last night (September 1), with parts of Tshimologong lit up with projection mapping, light sculpture, light based games, and music.