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Innovating With Impact: UWC At Innovation Bridge/Science Forum South Africa 2019

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

The University of the Western Cape believes in innovation that makes a difference; improving the way we live, learn and communicate. So it’s no surprise that UWC is exhibiting at Innovation Bridge/Science Forum SA 2019, exploring Innovations With Impact.

(Published - 5 December 2019)

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) believes in innovations that make a difference - improving the way people live, learn and communicate. So it’s no surprise that UWC is taking part in the 2019 Innovation Bridge (IB) Technology Matchmaking and Showcasing event, aimed at encouraging and accelerating the utilisation and commercialisation of intellectual property and technologies developed by public research institutions. 

“Innovation isn’t just about the successful implementation of new or improved products, processes and services derived from new ideas and inventions,” says Dr Ana Casanueva, Director of UWC’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO). “It’s also about the creation of social and/or monetary value - making life better in some ways.”

The IB event will be taking place jointly with Science Forum South Africa (SFSA), an "open science" event that provides for interested parties to ignite conversations about science - under the joint theme of Igniting Conversations About Science For Innovation With Impact. Both events are initiatives of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), and will be taking place at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria from 4 to 6 December 2019.

The UWC Technology Transfer Office is exhibiting four of the many game-changing UWC technologies it has helped produce.

1. SignSupport: Apps To Help The Deaf Be Heard: An affordable and accessible mobile app to facilitate information and communication services, SignSupport was designed for - and with - deaf people. It uses pre-recorded videos in South African Sign Language (SASL) to help them understand and communicate instructions for different scenarios, such as from pharmacists, for diabetes self-management or for emergency medical situations. The app suite includes an authoring tool to create additional scenarios, and a mobile video relay.
   
2. iBATECH Natural Biofertiliser From Botanical Extracts Most of us think of kraalbos as just another shrub (and that’s if we think of it at all), but UWC’s Indigenous Botanical Adjuvant Technology (iBATECH) project saw its potential as a biofertiliser containing valuable bio-flavonoids, bio-surfactants, organic acids and antioxidants. These components display antimicrobial properties as well as can increase the polyphenolic and sugar content of plants, thereby improving overall plant health and yield.
   
3. UNIQTYPER® Forensic DNA Kit: A rapid, highly discriminatory and more affordable DNA profiling kit for the African market, the UNIQTYPER® Forensic DNA Kit could prove invaluable in many investigations. Launched late 2018 as an alpha-prototype, the kit targets DNA on the Y-Chromosome, only carried by men, and gives law enforcement agencies across the continent the ability to uniquely identify the perpetrators of crimes such as rape. However, the kit also finds application in familial studies, paternal lineage kinship analysis and more.
   
4. Baobab LIMS - Managing Our Most Personal Information: An African-led open source affordable sample and laboratory management tool for biobanking, SANBI’s Baobab LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) can be implemented in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), who previously were rarely able to implement a LIMS. Designed for the collection, processing and storage of human biospecimens, Baobab LIMS is both free and open source, and can be customized to the specific needs of any particular laboratory.
   

UWC has previously displayed such innovations as modular battery systems, hydrogen fuel cell technologies and the Zenzeleni community Wifi network solution - the latter of which won the award for Best Innovation With Social Impact.

Sharing Science & Increasing Innovation

The UWC exhibition booth will also be showcasing the DSI Masters programme in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, managed by UWC, and offered jointly as a collaboration between UWC, the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Free State and Nelson Mandela University.

“The type of research conducted by students in our programme easily leads to new concepts and innovation,” Prof Knoesen says. “Nanoscience can help us deal with many important issues: water purification, energy and transport, biomedicine and agriculture, and more. Their innovations can change the world - like one former student who started his own company, now based in London, and is aiming to revolutionize emerging disease diagnosis.”

The event provides an opportunity for national and international technology-based companies, entrepreneurs, research institutes, financiers, and public and private sector representatives to scout for new technology solutions, new collaborative partnerships and new investment opportunities.

“This is a showcase of what universities are capable of, allowing them to meet up with new possible investors,” says Dr Casanueva. “Come and join us and discover the wonderful work taking place in the world of science at UWC!”

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