Durban based innovation businesses have suffered a blow as they failed to meet market expectations despite the city’s rich history of world-class innovations. Picture: GCINA NDWALANE, INLSA.
DURBAN -  Durban based innovation businesses have suffered a blow as they failed to meet market expectations despite the city’s rich history of world-class innovations.

Progress in Science, Technology and  Arts (PISTA) founder and chief executive Nkululeko Mthembu said that these businesses were at a  “juncture where they are either in concept phase or caught rendering non-core services with the initial offering being dented and not succeeding in the market as intended”.

He attributed their failure and regress to customers not paying on time for services rendered and lack of access to resources. 
Mthembu said that capacitating people in townships and peri-urban areas might unlock new opportunities in these localities as there currently was a blistering digital divide where there was no equitable access to programmes and service items.

“Information democratisation like skills development, the ability for people to understand their meaning and place in the innovation ecosystem is paramount, this achieved through rapid fibre, 4G technologies, containerised maker labs will unlock new value chains. Deploying 'innovation touch points' in these environments presents great value for the future.”
PISTA, which initially operated under the Durban Innovation Hub(TDIH) name was started out of the need to connect with local Durban entrepreneurs and technology enthusiasts with similar burgeoning technology-innovation communities in Johannesburg and Cape Town. For sustainability the then (TDIH) had to close doors and use an agile model of different venues to run its programmes.

Mthembu saidin the meantime they operated as a consultancy. He said this exposed them to greater collaboration from different industries in unlocking Afro-centric innovations that solve real problems.  

Mthembu said they foresaw greater partnership with industry to create safe environments for R&D(research and development) spend thereby unlocking more incentive for more R&D spend with PISTA as a pipeline. South Africa’s 2013 expenditure on research and development sat at 0.73% of country’s gross domestic product. 

The institution said it also foresaw a multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach in which unrelated disciplines would collaborate to drive innovation. “Imagine a room with a musician and data scientist solving a medical technology problem in KwaZulu-Natal's peri-urban clinics, or an informal trader, banker and nurse asked to solve service delivery matters. This is magical, more so, innovative. ” he said. 

Innovation agencies such as Innovate Durban NPC (a dual initiative by local government, academia and business) has been making strides to promote innovation in the region through programmes which include the Youth Innovation Challenge, Yakha Sakhe, Qhakaza Girls, High Schools Challenge and the Innovator's Support Programme.

BUSINESS REPORT