Creating opportunity: the launch of the Stellenbosch Network

Stellenbosch University’s Innovus hosted the launch of the Stellenbosch Network last week: a cross-sector and inter-disciplinary membership platform aiming to bring people together to meet each other, share ideas and encourage collaboration and partnership in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Keynote speaker Prof Thuli Madonsela.

The Network aims to bring together business, academia, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, students, small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMs), locally-based multinationals, local knowledge institutions and local government in a structured environment of a Stellenbosch knowledge region. Similar networking organisations such as the Cambridge Network and Leuven Mindgate have proven effective in structuring and stimulating increased collaboration amongst the university, research centres, high-tech companies and innovation actors in well-known knowledge regions. “We believe The Stellenbosch Network will add the final, but crucial, ingredients to complete the value chain for a knowledge region economy to thrive in Stellenbosch,” says Anita Nel, Chief Director of Innovation and Business Development at Stellenbosch University.

Anita Nel

Nel believes that the Stellenbosch Network will improve the sharing of ideas between sectors by letting them interact, cooperate and co-create. “This creates a unique ecosystem and perfect breeding ground for companies, entrepreneurs, investors and international talent.”

Keynote speaker Prof Thuli Madonsela, current Chair in Social Justice at the SU’s Faculty of Law, congratulated the conveners of the Network for the initiative and reminded the audience of how the power of collaboration amongst people can change the future. “We cannot change the past, but we can create the future,” said Madonsela referring to the network as an opportunity to help each other in fulfilling dreams.

Prof Daniel Malan, who recently returned from the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils, also provided insight into the alignment of the network with the global issues identified as urgent and important. These include: achieving sustainable and inclusive business models as new political, economic and societal priorities to change trade and consumption patterns; governing technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution so they benefit business and society, while minimizing their risks to them; and how to adapt to demographic, social and technological trends reshaping education, employment and entrepreneurship.

KykNet presenter Kabous Meiring also facilitated a panel discussion consisting of local entrepreneurs and Camille de Villiers, a technology transfer officer at Innovus, who initially identified the need for such an innovation and entrepreneurship network in Stellenbosch.

The founding members of the Network are Stellenbosch University, Entersekt, Remgro Limited, Capitec, Winetech, Wesgro, Nedbank and the CSIR’s Technology Localisation Implementation Unit (TLIU). Key partners are Innovus, Stellenbosch Municipality, Ranyaka and the Nedbank Stellenbosch LaunchLab. The Network is funded by the Department of Science and Innovation.

The network will host regular events including business breakfasts, a lecture series, pitching dens and hackathons amongst others as well as showcase its’ members events. The website will share news to give an inside view into what is happening in innovation and entrepreneurship in Stellenbosch. Other activities include mentorship matchmaking. To become a member of the Network, visit the website at www.stellenboschnetwork.co.za . Membership fees range from R500 to R10 000.

About Innovus

Innovus is the University of Stellenbosch’s university-industry interaction and innovation company. The company is responsible for technology transfer, entrepreneurial support and development, and innovation at the university. The company manages the commercialisation of the University’s innovation and intellectual property portfolio through patenting, licensing and the formation of spin-out companies.