It might have been an unusual year, but Innovus still had much to celebrate on their annual prestigious Innovation Awards.
The event celebrates the successes of SU researchers, their innovation and successful commercialisation, as well as the sustainability and independence of SU's group of companies.
Anita Nel, Chief Director of Innovus, said they hosted the event in collaboration with the patent attorney firm Von Seidels. “We held the event in one of the spacious venues of Lanzerac wine farm, keeping our social distancing, raising a glass of champagne to thank and congratulate technology transfer efforts among our brilliant minds."
Three faculty awards were made, namely:
- Most granted patents for 2020: Faculty of Engineering
- Most invention disclosures 2020: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
- Most spin-out companies 2020: Faculty of Science for BioCODE, Phagoflux, Biotikum and Immobazyme.
The spin-out excellence award for 2020 went to Stellenbosch Nanofibre Company (SNC) for demonstrating that innovation and good design has the power to change the world. SCN offers cutting-edge products in the biomedical space. Their flexible customer engagement model facilitates rapid product development.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the cosmetic market came to a near halt, which meant that their product sales were down. However, they demonstrated flexibility and agility when, two weeks into lockdown, the company pivoted temporarily and developed reusable washable nanofibre masks (on the same standard as N95 masks) and grew their staff from 28 pre-COVID to around 109.
Another remarkable achievement of SNC is that they have nearly increased their turnover tenfold in the past two years. Dr Eugene Smit, the CEO of SNC, received the prize on behalf of the company.
A new award introduced for the first time, was the SU Group of Companies Special Award 2020 that went to Unistel Medical Laboratories (UML) and their CEO, Dr Munro Marx. Established in 1999, UML is not only the oldest company in the SU Group of Companies, but, with the exception of 2018 (when the company relocated to new premises and invested in new infrastructure), the company has paid dividends every year over the past two decades.
It was also Dr Marx's vision that culminated in a report drafted with two colleagues in 1998 which lead to the establishment of the Office for Intellectual Property (now called Innovus Technology Transfer Office) in 1999, but also the incorporation of Unistel Group Holdings (Pty) Ltd, which is now called US Enterprises (Pty) Ltd. Dr Marx can be proud of his legacy.
US Enterprises now holds equity in 28 spinout companies, including the SU LaunchLab business incubator which offers world-class services and programmes for startups.
The inventors that were granted patents during the year, each received a certificate. They are:
Method and apparatus for the production of fine fibres to Anton Eugene Smit and Ronald Douglas Sanderson;
A support structure for multiple heliostats to Karel Malan and Paul Gauché;
A shark barrier to Craig O'Çonnell, Michael Rutzen, Sara Andreotti and Conrad Matthee;
Method for diagnosing tuberculosis to Novel Chegou, Gerhard Walzl, and Adane Mihret;
Method for preventing or treating microbial growth on a manufactured product to Marina Rautenbach and Wilma van Rensburg;
Conjugate for treating malaria to Lubertus Klumperman, Paul Reader and Marina Rautenbach;
Systems and methods for the detection of biomolecules to Leon Dicks, Willem Perold , Deon Neveling and Thomas van den Heever;
Cargo securing apparatus to Leo David Mcnally;
Frame supported height adjustable pylon to Willem Landman and James Larmuth;
Supporting frame assembly to Paul Gauché;
A device for the detection of biomolecules to Christiaan Viviers, Willem Perold, Leon Dicks and Giles Maybery;
Method of producing a fermented beverage to Wessel Johannes du Toit and Sebastian Vannevel;
Pipe condition assessment device and system to Jakobus van Zyl, Marthinus Booysen, Arno Barnard and Jurie Erwee;
A synthetic pulmonary surfactant composition for treating lung conditions to Lyné van Rensburg and Johann van Zyl;
Antimicrobial solution to William Joseph Cloete and Lubertus Klumperman;
Recombinant yeast to Rosemary Cripwell, Willem Van Zyl and Shaunita Rose;
Process for producing a brewers' spent grain extract and uses thereof to Lukas Swart, Johann Görgens and Eugene Rensburg
Use of papiliotrema laurentii as a bio-fertiliser to Leandra Moller, Alexander Valentine and Alfred Botha.
A huge congratulations to all these innovative achievers.