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22 April 2021
Innovating For Impact: (Another) Five Amazing UWC Technologies That Make A Difference

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) believes in innovations that make a difference - and in empowering entrepreneurs who want to solve real problems, improving the way people live, learn and communicate. That’s why UWC’s Technology Transfer Office helps promote the development, protection and commercialisation of intellectual property (IP) by the University’s research community, staff and students alike.

“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 for real people in the real world.”

“The human species possess an unparalleled capacity to invent creative solutions to its predicaments,” says TTO Technology Transfer Specialist, Monique Heystek. “The ancient Greek philosopher Plato is often given credit for the proverb, “necessity is the mother of invention”, a phrase that attributes the driving force behind many inventions simply as NEED. And now, more than ever, the world is in need of innovative solutions.”

Now that economic recovery from the fallout of COVID-19 is a priority, World Intellectual Property Day 2021 shines a light on how SMEs can use their innovative IP assets to build stronger, more competitive, and resilient businesses and create jobs.

Here’s a look at how the Technology Transfer Office celebrated World IP Day 2021 (in webinar form): 

And here are five of UWC’s world-changing intellectual property stories:

1. UWC Dental Aerosol Suction Device (DASD) - Reducing COVID Risk: Dentists live dangerously: they have an overall elevated risk of exposure to a wide variety of viruses and bacteria as a result of face-to-face communication and close proximity with patients. So it’s no surprise that dentistry is included in the top of the list of 100 occupations with the highest risk of COVID-19 exposure. Also no surprise: Africa’s biggest dental school is doing something about it. Doctors at UWC’s Dental Faculty have invented a novel dental aerosol suction device (DASD). The funnel-shaped device can either be held by the dental assistant or the patient himself on the chest with the funnel facing his chin - not only reducing aerosol risk through suction but also providing an increase in the visual field of view of the dentist. The device was extensively evaluated in the laboratory and the clinical environment during 2020 and demonstrated a greater reduction in the volume of aerosol compared to conventional high-volume suction tips. The technology was recently licenced to one of the original UWC inventors and SMME Director.

2. Synthetic HIV Peptides For Early Detection Of HIV: Though much advancement has been made in HIV research to date, neither a cure nor an HIV vaccine has been found - the disease can only be managed by means of antiretroviral therapy. However, in order to reduce the transmission of the virus, early detection and treatment of HIV are of vital importance. To help address this, UWC's Bioinformatics Group in the Department of Biotechnology developed synthetic HIV peptides for the diagnosis of HIV infection in a point of care testing environment, which means medical diagnostic testing performed outside the clinical laboratory in close proximity to where the patient is receiving care. Such testing is typically performed by non-laboratory personnel and the results are used for clinical decision making. The technology is patent-protected and was recently licenced to one of the original UWC inventors and SMME Director.

3. Baobab LIMS - Managing Our Most Personal Information: Biosciences and health sciences are advancing quickly, but many African countries cannot afford to manage biosamples in an appropriate manner. Initially developed to meet the requirements of biobanking best practices for human biobanking, UWC-SANBI’s Baobab LIMS is a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) for biobanking that was developed by African and European researchers as part of the Horizon2020 funding framework project “B3Africa”. Designed for the collection, processing and storage of human biospecimens, Baobab LIMS is free and open source, can be accessed through the internet on a standard web browser or as a standalone installation.and can be customised to the specific needs of any particular laboratory. So far, Baobab LIMS is implemented in low- and middle-income countries (it’s already being used in a dozen African countries) that previously (due in part to financial constraints) were rarely able to implement a LIMS. The name Baobab LIMS is trademark-protected and the possibility of commercializing the technology through the process of a new SMME is being explored.

4. Genesis School Health and Wellbeing Scorecard - Helping Children Thrive: School can be tough. Learners have to balance school work, home work, home life, friends and family, and for far too many children, many psychosocial health and wellbeing challenges. Educators need an effective, easy-to-use tool to help assess children and identify challenges that would otherwise hinder optimal development. The Genesis School Health and Wellbeing ScoreCard was developed through UWC's Department of Social Work and provides educators (and school management) with immediate first-line interventions to support learners at risk of psychosocial issues, and directly support the school clinics with referring serious cases. Available in English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans (mother tongue learning matters), the scorecard is an A4 folded card that consists of five sections detailing learner demographic details and four categories covering cognitive functioning. Assessment is done on a quarterly basis and takes on average just 6 minutes to complete per learner. The name Genesis School Health and Wellbeing Scorecard is trademark-protected, and the product will soon be available for purchase through an SMME.

5. SignSupport - Technology To Break The Silence: DeafSA estimates that there are somewhere between 500 000 to 1-million Deaf (entirely unable to hear even with hearing aids) people who use South African Sign Language as their mother tongue, and the rest of South Africans do not understand it at all. SignSupport is a low-cost mobile assistive app suite designed with - and for - Deaf people. It helps them communicate and understand, through sign language videos for Deaf users and text for hearing users, instructions and information to/from a healthcare professional. Pre-recorded videos in South African Sign Language (SASL), which cater to a range of medical needs, are loaded onto phones and can be accessed via the app without having to pay for data. SignSupport design is Deaf-led, and the SignSupport team has been working with numerous Deaf organisations in the Western Cape since 2001.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So do you want to know more about UWC’s innovations? Have you been working on something truly revolutionary, and you’re wondering how to protect all your hard work? Why not contact the Technology Transfer Office ( or visit their website, LinkedIn or Facebook to find out more?