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The Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards took place at the Country Club in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 15th of November, 2017. The platform gives recognition to companies that use technology to innovate and manage the process of creating new technologies. For 26 years, Da Vinci has been identifying leaders in the management of technology and innovation and this year was no different.
In an interview with IT News Africa Magazine, Science and Technology minister Naledi Pandor said, “Having an institute like Da Vinci that is involved in this process is really important; it is not just about the profit you’re making as an organisation or the number of persons you employ, it is a set of very rigorous criteria that are utilised to examine the capabilities and the achievements of these companies. I think that rigour is unusual in an awards process.”
The TT100 Awards are open to businesses of all sizes that have been in operation for more than a year. State-owned enterprises were also invited to participate. The TT100 Awards uses a unique adjudication process to assess what drives companies that demonstrate excellence in the management of innovation and technology.
“Some of these companies are significant medium-sized corporations, others are small, but what we are seeing is that they are very inventive and strategic in their thinking. Some of them are young companies that have a potential to grow,” said the minister.
“It is important for us to recognise technology companies that are innovative and to profile them in South Africa. We don’t sufficiently highlight the role that such companies play in enhancing business activity in our country,” added the Minister.
Pandor says that because technology is a sector that is beginning to grow in the country, the importance of emerging technology companies is crucial to the economy. Addressing the entrants of the TT100 Awards, the minister said, “As your company succeeds and grows, I hope one of the things you will do is look to others and help them to secure the experience and knowledge you’ve gained.” The department has many initiatives that aim to assist and aid technology enterprises. The minister said, “One of the things that we are keen on as the department of Science and Technology is to encourage local innovation because our country has to intensively grow the use of opportunities for new products, new processes and new technologies.”
Pandor says that the real challenge in South Africa is that the country does not produce enough local technologies to make a real difference in the global market of innovators. “We really have to look at how we can improve our capabilities in terms of producing greater amounts and types of local technology,” she says.
It is predicted by the department that there will be more small and medium enterprises emerging in the country. Pandor said, “All the interventions by the department have shown that the country will see the emergence of more start-ups, which is what the country desperately needs. Although we don’t know how many start-ups we see mushrooming will survive, we know that there is immense potential for growth in this sector and huge potential to impact on our technology balance of payments in a very positive way.”
The minister believes that there are not enough entrepreneurs; she says South Africa needs to have a start-up culture which will see everybody in the country having a livelihood, and become a promising nation that is globally competitive.
“As the department of Science and Technology, we are trying to ensure that we support small and medium-sized enterprises to innovate, to perform research and development, and to absorb new technology because we have realised that these three elements prevent them from being competitive,” she said.
The department has technology stations throughout the country that have provided support to more than 2000 small and medium size firms annually. With plans to extend the current model, the department wants to increase their reach.
“We want to extend our ability for walk-in support at our technology stations, we also want to increase the geographic reach of our nano-technology station that we provide at the Council for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR) throughout the country so that any SME requiring technology support can have access to it and grow in capacity and competence,” said the minister. According to a study by the department, South African businesses spend, on average, 2 percent of their turnover on innovation activities. Pandor says businesses are very clear about the factors that hamper their innovation activities and that the key inhibiting factors are a lack of funding from internal resources, the high cost of innovation and the market dominance by established enterprises.
“We have the capabilities in South Africa, but we are not exploiting new technologies and what they can do for our businesses and for public service delivery,” concluded Pandor.

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