The Technology, Transfer and Innovation held a World Intellectual Property (IP) DAY Webinar at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), on Monday, 26 April 2021 via MS Teams.
World IP Day is observed annually on 26 April and was recognised by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2000 to increase attentiveness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the advancement of societies across the world.
The programme director was DUT’s Duke Ngcobo, external Business Project Officer for the Midlands Entrepreneurship Centre and Student Desk, he welcomed all the DUT academics, invited speakers, strategic partners and student entrepreneurs to the event.
He said that this year, the World Intellectual Property Day focused on IP and SMEs: Taking your ideas to market, which looks at how intellectual property helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to grow and to succeed.
DUT’s) Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DVC): Research, Innovation and Engagement (RIE), Professor Sibusiso Moyo, welcomed the DUT academics, staff, students and external stakeholders to the webinar. She thanked the Technology, Transfer and Innovation Directorate for arranging this day on the calendar of the university.
“It is a very important day for us because as a university that is trying to embark on ensuring that our students are innovative, entrepreneurial and that our staff are also entrepreneurial and innovative; it does make a lot of sense for us to start realising and concerning ourselves with what it means to protect our Intellectual Property and what that means for the SMEs that we are trying to develop in terms of ensuring that they are sustainable, able to contribute to the socio-economic transformation, as well as developing others,” she said.
She also relayed that as a university and taking into account DUT’s strategy which is ENVISION2030, the university has organised itself in such a way that DUT wants to make sure that from a governance level and from an organisational level that the university capacitates the SMMEs.
“When we look at the impact we are doing we will measure ourselves in terms of how many of those SMMEs are sustainable, so what we have done from a leadership and governance level, our strategy talks to entrepreneurship and innovation, we have the intention but we don’t just talk about it. In terms of organisational capacity and building, we are one of the few universities that fund SMMEs from student ideas, and also making sure that they are sustainable. We don’t expect that they will give us a profit but we know that after some time they should also be able to contribute to venture capital ideas which will also help other student SMMEs to grow as well,” she said.
Stressing the role that small business sector plays in the economy was Jetane Charsley, Acting Head: National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO).
“The small business sector in South Africa is a critical part of the national economy, it contributes to the economy significantly by reducing unemployment, poverty alleviation and addressing inequality,” she said.
She indicated that her office looked forward to working with Prof Motaung and the team. “DUT has so much to offer and NIPMO wants to be an enabling partner in this journey so that DUT can make an impact in the KwaZulu-Natal society, South Africa as a whole, and the world,” she said.
Delving further into the conversation was the keynote speaker Dr Mclean Sibanda: regional Managing Director of Bigen Global Limited. He is an accomplished patent attorney, engineer by qualification and an internationally respected innovation promoter with a 23-year career in intellectual property and related fields.
He spoke on Intellectual Property (IP) as an economic and social construct. He outlined that for economies-emerging and developed alike, the creation of new forms of intangible assets and IP are what drive innovation, technological advances and ultimately, economic development and growth. “IP rights are a critical component of this,” he said.
Dr Sibanda further explained the TRIPS agreement which is the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
He explained more on SMEs and IP, the importance of trademarks which is a mark of quality, innovation and brand promise.
He also spoke on the value of strategic positioning and for SMEs being able to monitor and object to new trademarks, so as to prevent potential competition. He relayed that SMEs need to pay attention to IP.
“Strengthen your own internal capacities, generate additional revenues through licensing/sale of IP. Identify third party IP for acquisition. SMEs need to look beyond the cost of protection/acquisition,” he said.
Professor Keolebogile Motaung, Director of Technology, Transfer and Innovation at DUT, and the organiser of the webinar, spoke about Intellectual Property to market. She relayed a case study (Global Health PTY LTD) and how she had turned an IP into a success.
“Becoming an entrepreneur will make you move IP to market. When I say entrepreneur I am not saying someone who is rich. How I define it is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. An entrepreneur is a person who converts an opportunity (IP) into a workable and marketable concept, this is where I was able to overcome adversities in the past and turned them into success,” she said.
Prof Motaung explained the key ingredients of entrepreneurship saying that it was her dream, and therefore her responsibility to make sure that it came true, which meant understanding her weaknesses and building on her strengths.
“You need a strong, clear purpose driving you to succeed in business. I had to overcome many challenges to succeed at this, and I found that it was important to persist in my efforts, and not be afraid to use my academic experience in the commercial space. Also, you need to have the passion to create value from your research findings and make sure that they contribute to make people’s lives better,” she said.
She further stressed that as an entrepreneur a person need to have great communication and sales skills, as well as focus, learn and have a business strategy.
“To be a successful entrepreneur you need to be able to focus so you can stay on the course when the going gets tough. Focus on the end goal and align what you are spending your time on with what is important to reach your end goal,” she said.
Prof Motaung further highlighted her journey of entrepreneurship and what her company, Global Health offers, which is short learning programmes for tissue engineering and regenerate medicine. They also offer commercialisation of products, product development, testing safety and efficacy of products, to name but a few.
She also spoke on her first product called the anti-inflammatory ointment La-Africa Soother which is from medicinal plants, and is available on the market.
Her recommendations are to encourage researchers (from universities) to form partnerships with industries and SMEs.
“To also allow students to translate their ideas into commercialisation by not threatening them that IP belongs to the university (license the technology). Equip the undergraduates and post graduates with the relevant knowledge and skills to translate their research into products and services that can be commercialised, e.g., boot camp. Ensure commercialisation is achieved through partnership and collaboration within the university and other universities and private sector companies and SMMEs. Establish a business incubator to support recently graduated undergraduate and postgraduate students from the South African universities,” she said.
Taking to the platform was Mr Sfundo Cele, CEO of EGO (Pty) Ltd, who spoke on the career guidance ecosystem. Mr Vukani Zondi, CEO of Lamella Trading looked at tapping into the Agricultural market through collaboration.
Ms Diva Mobedi spoke on how she focused her fashion business on turning waste into fashion. Mr Daniel Ndima, CEO of Cape Bio gave insight into the road from researcher to entrepreneur. Dr Chuma Chomba, MD of Lighthouse Healthcare, spoke on taking a product to the market.
The last speaker of the webinar was Dr Joanne van Harmelen, Patent Attorney, ENSafrica, who focused on patent strategy.
She relayed more on the term of a patent which is 20 years from the filing date and that renewable fees are payable to keep patent in force. She spoke of who owns the IP, saying that generally, the person who creates the IP owns it.
Giving the vote of thanks was the DUT Midlands Campus Director, Dr Joe Molete, who thanked all the DUT colleagues and external stakeholders, student entrepreneurs, for making time to be on this valuable webinar.
“I want to thank Prof Motaung and her team for organising this day, Prof Moyo for her leadership and we know with you as our leader in research, innovation and engagement, DUT is going to change this landscape. Colleagues, lets continue engaging as we heard from the robust debate, there is no one answer, we are all learning, they are all work in progress. As long as we continue engaging, we will one day make our country proud,” he said.
Pictured: Dr Joanne van Harmelen, Patent Attorney, ENSafrica and Dr Mclean Sibanda: regional Managing Director of Bigen Global Limited, at the webinar.