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THE newly launched Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Social Innovation Lab aims to strengthen DUT/Industry partnerships during this year, 2021 and beyond.

The lab was launched on 9 November 2020 by the Directorate for Research and Postgraduate Support (RPS) in partnership with the Technology, Transfer and Innovation (TTI) Office under the auspices of the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation, and Engagement.

DUT Research Director, Dr Linda Linganiso said the idea behind the lab is to market it nationally in order to reach out to investors and strategic partners.

“To do this, we want to showcase our innovations to the world and society at large so as to establish strong and relevant collaborations for maximum benefits. We would like the community to know what we are capable of doing in terms of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. It would be easy to obtain a buy in from the private sector, government officials as well as investors,” said Dr Linganiso.

She said they plan to also distribute videos of DUT inventors including student entrepreneurs from DUT entrepreneurship centres, to showcase innovations at the university.

Furthermore, Dr Linganiso said with this approach they plan to easily attract investors and strategic partners to fast track funding, mentoring, prototyping and so on.

She asked the DUT community to share their innovative ideas to help shape the lab so that all can get maximum benefits for researchers as well as student entrepreneurs at DUT.

Giving insight on the Social Innovation Lab, Dr Linganiso said it would consist of intense meetings of diverse groups of people from industries/society, who are searching for break-through solutions to serious problems. She said the lab runs over days whilst others have ongoing gatherings and activities that last for years.

“People from the industry will bring the pressing issues for DUT researchers to solve through innovation, while the investors will identify projects of interest from our students’ entrepreneurs to fund,” said Dr Linganiso.

Previously at the launch, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo said the lab is aligned with DUT’s Envision 2030 to build an innovation ecosystem within the university and also with partners outside the university.

“Remember that as a university we want to remain one of the top universities and also a relevant university within our region. In order to do that, we have to make sure that we are paying attention to activities that make us stay on the map and also we continue to increase impact. We want our volume of research to increase, we want to increase the impact in terms of the global rankings,” said Prof Moyo.

Also speaking about DUT’s Social Innovation Lab, Vaneshree Govender from the Directorate for Research and Postgraduate Support said the Social Innovation Lab offer a unique process that involves diverse stakeholders in a given field, creating an environment conducive to innovation and experimentation.

“The Social Innovation Lab refers to a process that brings together many stakeholders to address complex social problems involving research, experimentation, prototyping and testing solutions. Social Innovation provides a unique opportunity to step back from a narrow way of thinking about social enterprises, business engagement and philanthropy. It recognises the interconnectedness of various factors and stakeholders, to develop better solutions while building the innovation capacity,” said Govender.

She further relayed that the lab fits in the Envision 2030 by the Society perspective, in an engaged university objective. Govender said the private sector recognises high return offered by partnerships with universities as these partnerships drive innovation.

Pictured: DUT Research Director, Dr Linda Linganiso.

Simangele Zuma

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