A two-day hybrid launch of the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) newly named Innobiz DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation was held at DUT’s Indumiso Campus in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday, 04 November 2021 and on Friday, 05 November 2021.
Local and international esteemed guests joined DUT in celebration of this milestone, a Centre that will serve as an umbrella Centre for all entrepreneurial units within the university. This exciting launch included the unveiling of the Innobiz plaque, an exhibition of DUT’s entrepreneurial activities, showcasing of hubs and student businesses, fashion shows, a panel discussion with various industries both local and international, networking, a gala dinner, student pitches, prizes, etc.
Amongst dignitaries who attended this prestigious event were DUT’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Zizwe Mthembu; Dr Phil Mjwara, Director General: Department of Science and Innovation (DSI); Dr Mboneni Muofue, Deputy Director General, DSI; Ms Mandisa Cakwe, Director: Teaching and Learning Development in Universities, Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET); Dr Norah Clark, Director of the Entrepreneurial Development in Higher Education (EDHE) programme; Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement at DUT, Prof Sibusiso Moyo, DUT Midlands Campus Director, Dr Joe Molete, Director: Technology, Transfer and Innovation at DUT, Prof Keolebogile Motaung, Director: Advancement and Alumni Relations, Mr Zwakele Ngubane, Innobiz Midlands Centre Manager, Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo and others.
Providing messages of support to Innobiz were Dr Norah Clarke, Director: EDHE programme, Ms Mandisa Cakwe, Director: Teaching and Learning Development in Universities (DHET), Ms Janna Pukka, International Higher Education, Innovation and Regional Development Expert in Finland and Ms Jaclyn Cole, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General. The fitting keynote address was delivered by Dr Phil Mjwara, Director General: DSI.
The Programme Directors were DUT’s Professor Keolebogile Motaung, Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI) Director and Mr Zwakele Ngubane, Director: Advancement and Alumni Relations, who facilitated the proceedings of the launch.
“Today, we demonstrate what DUT is made of. Today, we demonstrate that DUT’s DNA strands, namely ‘innovative and entrepreneurial’ and ‘people-centred and engaged’ are not wild and vacuous slogans; but, that they are pregnant with tangible outputs, outcomes and impacts. Innobiz is one of the platforms we will use at DUT to make good on our ultimate goal of innovative and entrepreneurial’ and ‘people-centred and engaged’” said DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu.
Prof Mthembu further revealed that DUT has from 2017, put more emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship as one strategy for transforming societies and economies. He thanked all those that put their minds and energies together over a number of years to make the Centre not just a possibility but a reality.
“Beyond this launch, many problems will still arise, within DUT and between DUT and its Quad-Helix partners. May we all choose to solve the problems instead of moaning incessantly and noisily about them. Unlike what we saw in July, what we see in service delivery protests and other violent protests including our own here at DUT, may we not multiply our problems. May we rather unleash innovation and entrepreneurship via Innobiz. Ultimately, may Innobiz contribute to improving the lives and livelihoods of our broader society,” noted Prof Mthembu.
Unpacking ENVISION2030: Taking Entrepreneurship and Innovation to new levels at DUT was DVC: RIE, Prof Sibusiso Moyo. She began by thanking both DUT Council and Prof Mthembu for approving the establishment of the Centre.
Through this leadership, Prof Moyo highlighted that DUT has managed to position itself as a significant player in entrepreneurship both in words and in action.
“It will provide a conduit for all entrepreneurs and innovators to learn, practice, experiment, innovate, design and set up their own start-ups with the support of mentors, while providing access to a network of experts and organisations/businesses,” she said.
Additionally, Prof Moyo said the Centre will provide a conduit for all entrepreneurs and innovators to learn, practice, experiment, innovate, design and set up their own start-ups with the support of mentors, while providing access to a network of experts and organisations/businesses.
She further announced the Innobiz competition winner, second year Auditing and Taxation student, Miss Nobuhle Ngcobo, whom out of more than 500 entries came up with the best name and concept of Innobiz. Ngcobo expressed her gratitude to DUT for giving her the opportunity to explore her creativity.
Dr Phil Mjwara, Director General: Department of Science and Innovation left many people wishing for more on his thought provoking key note address.
He noted that the establishment of this Centre is important in a number of respects, saying it is being launched at a time when there is a growing expectation for science, technology and innovation to become increasingly socially responsive to the needs of the citizens of South Africa.
“This expectation is legitimate if viewed in the context of our disturbingly high levels of inequality and how these were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Informed by these and other societal challenges, we have regularly reviewed the responsiveness of our Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) system to the needs of the citizens of our country. More recently, we have undertaken a project to configure our National System and Innovation with the view to make it more agile and responsive to our current socio-economic realities. Our latest reconfiguration project is largely informed by our 2019 White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation and will be implemented through our soon to be finalised Decadal Plan,” said Dr Mjwara.
He spoke at length about his Department’s Decadal Plan and its benefits to the society. Informed by the White Paper on Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Mjwara said they will continue to make investments that are aimed at enabling their STI system to be more socially responsive. He emphasized that they will increase their focus on the development of techno-entrepreneurs, thus stating that this opening of the Centre is complementary to their objectives. He congratulated DUT on this visionary initiative, saying his DSI was looking forward to working with the Centre in efforts to build a culture of technology-driven entrepreneurs in South Africa.
“We are a home of all entrepreneurial and innovative activities in DUT. We assist students who want to start business or participate on entrepreneurial community engagements. We assist students with design thinking training, incubation, Business Mentorship, Access to Market, Funding, Business Compliance and business support and we also offer personal development activities through community services. We are dedicated in creating entrepreneurs who are innovative and creative,” said Innobiz Midlands Centre Manager, Nontokozo Ngcobo.
Sharing some of the challenges, Ms Ngcobo expressed the need to scale-up the commercialisation scenario for transactional products in the University. Another area she addressed was around having the right human resource capacity and funding for entrepreneurial research and innovation in order to fully meet the demands. Her recommendations included; establishing incubators in the University that will assist with commercialisation. She advised that students should be allowed to translate their ideas into commercialisation by not threatening them that the Intellectual Property (IP) belongs to the University. Ms Ngcobo also recommended that format of proposal writing should be changed to incorporate entrepreneurship into the curriculum.
After the formalities, dignitaries had a walkabout, touring the Agrihub then to the Centre for the ribbon cutting and plaque unveiling. They were given a chance to interact with student entrepreneurs at the Student Businesses Exhibition.
Day one of the launch ended with informed panel discussions titled: The Role and Response of the Higher Education Sector to Commercialisation and Innovation with the other tackling the Role of Incubators in Higher Education Institutions. The facilitators of the discussions were TTI Director, Prof Keolebogile Motaung and Mr Duke Ngcobo, Innobiz Midlands, Industry and Projects Coordinator.
Day two of the launch was held virtually on Friday, 05 November 2021 via Microsoft Teams. It was filled with exciting presentations and discussions from DUT stakeholders, all in celebration and support of the launch of the groundbreaking Innobiz DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Pictured: From left to right: DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Thandwa Mthembu, Ms Jaclyn Cole, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General, Dr Phil Mjwara, Director General: Department of Science and Innovation and DUT Midlands Campus Director, Dr Joe Molete at the launch of the Innobiz DUT Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Picture credit: Vusi Dlamini