Every year South Africa commemorates Women's month in August as a tribute to the brave women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to stop forcing women to carry passes. It is 2022, and we have come a long way, something we see daily at Stellenbosch University's innovation and commercialisation division, Innovus, where they nurture and develop entrepreneurial women's innovations into viable businesses that make significant differences in the world we live.
“We have them all," says Anita Nel, SU'S Chief Director: Innovation and Commercialisation. “Women scientists who very recently patented a ground-breaking research method, which detects micro clots in the blood of Long COVID patients; an engineer who helped establish a green energy company that is now helping schools to reduce their energy bills; a marine biologist that is helping to make the sea safe for sharks and people; our creative and energetic new Matie Shop manager who is taking our SU brand to the stars; and our women technology transfer team at Innovus who work around the clock to create commercially viable businesses from SU scholars' research. And there are many more. We, at Innovus, are inspired by each of these women."
Nel, who recently returned from Amsterdam with accolades for SU from the University-Industry Innovation Network (UIIN) as runner-up for Outstanding Entrepreneurial and Engaged University based on the work done via Innovus, believes it is the women entrepreneurs of today who are creating a better tomorrow for everyone. “I see this daily as innovations from our female researchers land on our desks. We have to support our women entrepreneurs because their legacy will create a better world for future generations," says Nel.
“I am privileged to have seen the enormous effect of women's successes contributing directly to local economies and touching the lives of the people in those communities. Women are constantly looking for ways to invest back into their families and community – to uplift education, and ensure the best nutrition, wellbeing, and children's health. Their innovations are also more likely to provide services and opportunities to their communities."
As one of the presenters at the UIIN conference in June this year, Anita shared her learnings in establishing SU's entrepreneurial ecosystem, which consists of Innovus's Technology Transfer Office, University of Stellenbosch Enterprises, the SU LaunchLab and SUNCOM, SU's division focusing on the commercialisation of non-academic services and projects. “The collaboration of these entities, together with the establishment of the University Technology Fund and the SU Investment Committee is providing the platform for entrepreneurship to flourish."
Nel believes Universities in Africa can play a significant role in supporting entrepreneurs to become economic growth agents in their regions, starting and growing ventures. “In growing SU as an entrepreneurial university, we will develop the Institution to innovate, recognise and create opportunities, take risks and respond to challenges and eventually become a natural incubator that supports its academics, technicians and students to create new ventures," said Nel, referring to UK academic David Kirby's definition of entrepreneurship.
In August, Innovus will publish a series of articles celebrating SU's women entrepreneurs on their website at www.innovus.co.za and on social media platforms. Read their stories and help us share and celebrate the outstanding achievements of women in various disciplines, creating a better life for all through innovation.
Innovus website: Woman's Month (innovus.co.za)
LinkedIn: (1) University of Stellenbosch Enterprises (Pty) Ltd: Company Page Admin | LinkedIn
Facebook: Innovus Technology Transfer | Facebook