Caption: A highlight of the SA Innovation Summit was the CEO panel debate (left) with Professor Francis Petersen (University of Cape Town), Bhaskar Ramani (General Electric), Frik Landman (University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development Ltd) and Thabo Molekoa (DuPont). Right is the winner of the Inventors’ Garage competition, Thato Kgatlhanye, with her repurposed solar energy school bags.

Over 700 innovators, investors and scholars flocked to the Cape Town Stadium recently where this years’ three day SA Innovation Summit proved a huge success! Over 650 additional delegates from all over Southern Africa watched the seminars from video streams. The creativity and ingenuity of local innovators was outstanding with 19 inventors exhibiting their designs at the Inventors’ Garage competition, 34 pitchers pitching their creations, businesses and ideas at the Pitching Den competition, and 45 speakers hosting informative workshops and seminars.

The winner of the Inventors’ Garage competition epitomised what the Summit was all about – Thato Kgatlhanye created a school backpack which brings together recycling, solar energy and a better learning environment for school children. “Made from 100% plastic shopping bags and fitted with a Consol solar jar lid that charges in the sun, learners can carry their books in a sturdy eco-friendly schoolbag, which later provides light for the learner to study after dark. There is a safety and visibility element too as the integration of retro-reflective material increases visibility of children to motorists while walking to school,” says the creator Thato. The impressive local design was awarded R15 000 and we may see the invention on the backs of learners soon.

Another highlight of the Summit was the Pitching Den competition which played out to a panel of judges as 34 local inventors and entrepreneurs took to the stage to pitch their remarkable creations. Taking first prize was Clear Sky Energy, a breakthrough waste to energy technology which dramatically reduced emissions. The unique patented vortex offers waste to energy plants that are cost-effective and highly efficient, while boasting a small footprint and negligible emissions. The design took home R15 000 in prize money to help fund its production as well entry to an applied innovation strategy course.

The heat was on at the CEO panel debate as prominent members from DuPont, General Electric, University of Cape Town and University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development (Ltd) discussed the policies needed for innovative businesses to thrive: the link between profit and science and technology. The discussion found that as most innovations are founded on key research and development knowledge, more high-level skills are required.  As government is a key partner in the innovation landscape, their role in providing an enabling regulatory environment to stimulate innovation, is critical.

The Summit concluded with a vibrant youth day programme where over 300 leaners attended workshops on innovation and creativity. The Spark Lab exhibition area was transformed into a playful dance floor with learners taking centre stage with interactive sessions.

Cape Town experienced the SA Innovation Summit for the first time this year, and it is confirmed to return to the Mother City next year, so watch this space…

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