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Mr. Abduraghman Regal - Innovation

South African Higher Education Institutions have witnessed a decrease in Government funding in proportion to needs resulting in an ever increasing demand and competition for the available defined pool of state funds, and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) has been no different. This trend of dwindling state funding to Higher Education is not unique to South Africa, but rather appears to be a global drift.

Globally, many institutions have passed on a portion of the burden of decreased funding onto the students through increased tuition and other fees. UWC has not followed this approach given the diverse income profile of the communities it serves, choosing instead, to adopt the strategy of complementing and supporting its operational expenses by expanding its capital reserve base from third stream income.

The development and implementation of a third stream income strategy requires a change in the way universities typically operate in South Africa. The concept of a Business Innovation Centre (BIC) at UWC has been established and introduced as the vehicle for managing the implementation of the third stream income strategy at UWC and consolidating existing efforts, e.g. grants & contracts management, and the current un-coordinated third stream income-generating activities in the various departments and units.

The working definition adopted for ‘third stream income’ in this document is; “all income derived from sources other than public subsidies and student fees for tuition or accommodation”. A 2009 report by the Centre for Higher Education Research at Rhodes University indicated that South African Higher Education Institutes obtain 12-53% of their income from such “third stream” sources and activities.  UWC has evolved into a significant research institution with a steady growth in third stream income, also referred to at UWC as ‘restricted-use’ funds. The implementation of complex research projects and increasing entrepreneurial activity at UWC to drive new innovative ideas (with the associated complex legal and statutory obligations associated herewith) have necessitated the building and enhancement of existing capacity at UWC to address the needs of these activities while also looking to generate and support new business opportunities.

Appropriate structuring and management of business/enterprise operations and innovation activities at UWC, will require inter-dependent policies as well as inter-dependent enterprise, business and innovation activities. The BIC at UWC was established to create a space for multidisciplinary skills and competencies to drive and manage revenue generation opportunities at UWC.

UWC Mission

UWC is a national University:

  • Alert to its African and international context as it strives to be a place of quality, a place to grow.
  • Committed to excellence in teaching, learning and research, to nurturing the cultural diversity of South Africa, and responding in critical and creative ways to a society in transition.
  • Aware of its distinctive academic role in helping build an equitable and dynamic society.

Alignment of BIC Activities with the Institutional Operational Plan (IOP) Goals

The UWC IOP (2010-14) identifies 8 (eight) strategic goals that deliver into the university’s Vision and Mission. Activities of the BIC deliver into the following 4 (four) IOP goals:

  • To enhance UWC as a significant research and innovation University, nationally and internationally engaged and connected to the public sphere;
  • To develop a strong and diversified financial base to allow UWC to make bold moves when opportunities present themselves and provide a buffer against bad times;
  • To give effective leadership at all levels in order to maintain and develop a vibrant and viable institution of high repute;
  • To harmonise the business processes and operations at UWC.

Mission of the Business Innovation Centre

To promote, support and facilitate third stream income-generating activities at UWC such as contract research, innovation, entrepreneurship and business/enterprise development with the potential to grow and diversify UWC’s revenue base by:

  • Facilitating and supporting the development and implementation of appropriate processes to optimise the efficient (time & money saving) and effective (support to achieve the desired outcome) use and leveraging of UWC assets, infrastructure and the UWC brand in order to create value for both internal and external stakeholders and grow UWC’s brand value;

  • Promoting, supporting and facilitating innovation and the development of enterprise and business opportunities and offerings that have the potential to grow the University’s non-mainstream income (student fees and Government subsidies);

  • Identifying, supporting and facilitating the protection and commercialisation of UWC-owned intellectual property rights (IPR) with the potential to create socio-economic value for South Africa;

  • Promoting, supporting and facilitating the creation of an enabling and incentivised environment for:

- The development and growth of research, business and entrepreneurial leaders

- The development, nurturing and transfer of new and existing ideas from UWC in the form of products, services or processes that have the potential to    

  create socio-economic value and address societal and market needs.

Key Strategic Objective of the Business Innovation Centre

To support UWC’s capacity for third stream income generation by optimising the businesses processes that support teaching, research, business services and promoting, facilitating and supporting the establishment of business and enterprise ventures from new and existing UWC ideas/opportunities, infrastructure, technology, intellectual property, know-how and staff and/or research groups’ competencies.

Operational goals of the BIC to achieve its mission and strategic objectives.

Supporting growth in the research revenue base:

Implement business processes that grow the research base and encourage research partnerships that facilitate growth in third stream income by enhancing the Research Support function.

  • Build on the Research Support function by encouraging closer collaboration between the existing UWC research office and the existing UWC grants and contracts office in order to develop systems and processed that meet the research administration and financial administration and transaction needs of academics.

  • Present a better client offering, include legal contract review, full cost budget models, and support with project reporting as required

  • Attract suitable skills to conduct thorough legal contract review of research grant contracts

  • Internal systems will be strengthened to extract an overhead levy per research grant contract, where appropriate to account for UWC overhead usage in the implementation of research projects, and guidance in the area of implementation of full cost research budgets.

Maximise efficiency, effectiveness and resourcefulness of UWC assets:

Leverage the brand value, infrastructure and intellectual capital at UWC to offer services to clients that create value and grow the revenue base of the University.

  • Develop the appropriate structures at UWC that will offer some flexibility to respond in an efficient business manner to market needs and opportunities, by utilizing the academic and infrastructure resources available to UWC, while considering the risks of the projects

  • Attract suitable skills to be able to undertake business feasibility and risk assessment of income generation ideas, and guide the implementation of these same ideas

  • Specific areas for which policy and business process management systems and suitably structured entities will be investigated include:

- Continuing Education Courses, where UWC has a clear niche and market advantage.

- Business Services to harness and exploit the academic ability of UWC staff.

- Leveraging of UWC resources, systems and physical infrastructure.

Establish revenue from commercialisation and create an enabling environment for new ideas at UWC:

Encourage, identify and grow UWC ideas into quality technology, services, products and business projects that will enhance the standing of UWC as an engaged University.

  • Identify, filter and protect the research ideas of UWC that have commercial application, and identify ways to extract value from UWC inventions through commercial research partnerships, licensing partnerships, and development of companies.

  • Identify and package technologies and services undertaken at UWC into commercial offerings that are competitive and sustainable.

  • Look to establish an innovation space at UWC where staff and students with business ideas will be given the support to investigate the business feasibility and opportunity to establish start-up companies on campus.

Various units and functional areas is housed under the BIC. Close collaboration and interaction between the units and functional areas is critical to the success of the BIC. The departments are as follows:

  • Business Development

  • Grants and Contracts

  • Technology Transfer Office (TTO)

  •  Centre for Entrepreneurship

  • Legal Services

  • Business Development 

For a depiction of the BIC, please view the diagram below:

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