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15 October 2021
UWC has a key role to play in establishing Bellville as a globally-competitive innovation district
With the University of the Western Cape as one of its anchor tenants, Bellville is on track to becoming an innovation hub within the next 20 years.

Although considered Cape Town’s “secondary CBD”, Bellville has unique qualities and strengths that will see it hold its own as a thriving, mixed-use urban node, said Lance Greyling, City of Cape Town Director: Enterprise and Investment, at yesterday’s Greater Tygerberg Partnership’s (GTP) virtual conference, “Why Bellville?”. 

Brookings, a research institution, defines innovation districts as areas where anchor institutions and companies connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators. These districts have accessible transport interchanges and offer a mix of residential, office and retail opportunities. 
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Loïs Dippenaar, UWC Director: Institutional Planning, said UWC is committed to Bellville and has a significant infrastructural footprint in the area. In addition to the University’s main campus on Robert Sobukwe Road, its Dental faculty has facilities on the Tygerberg Hospital Estate and its Community and Health Sciences faculty has a facility in the Bellville CBD. UWC’s soon-to-be-launched Digital Innovation Hub in Voortrekker Road is the latest addition to the University’s expanding multi-site campus, said Dippenaar. 

The hub builds on the capacity that the University is developing in the area of augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and it offers a postgraduate diploma focusing on AR/VR. The hub will create new opportunities for UWC to partner with industry. Facilities will include a showroom showcasing examples of how augmented and virtual reality can be applied in different sectors as well as a studio section where the University plans to work with different sectors and industry partners to explore how AR/VR can be used to find solutions to some of their challenges, or to optimise their operations.

The expansion into Bellville’s CBD was a “strategic decision”, said Dippenaar. “We want to work with more businesses in the area to unlock opportunities for innovation. It also brings us in closer proximity to communities and it allows UWC to be directly involved in the development of Bellville.” 

UWC’s contribution to this community, especially when it comes to health education, is intrinsic to its role as an anchor institution in Bellville, said Dippenaar. Recently, students from the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences (CHS) took part in a vaccination drive at Bellville’s taxi rank and the Middestad Mall, with about 180 commuters agreeing to get the COVID-19 jab at a vaccination site set up in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Health. Also, the CHS faculty building (pcitured), located in the heart of Bellville’s CBD, serves as a catalyst for urban renewal and the reinvigoration of the precinct. 

Watch Professor Firdouza Waggie, Director of the Interprofessional Education Unit (IPEU) in the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences (CHS) talk about UWC’s outreach programmes.

UWC was one of several exhibitors taking part in the GTP conference. Videos displayed included a virtual campus tour, an overview of UWC’s historical legacy, and a review of the Post-Graduate Diploma in e-Skills. Greyling said higher education institutions such as UWC play an important part in bringing human capital into the area, creating a potential workforce particularly for high-growth industries. To help achieve its vision of Bellville as a future-forward, learning city, the municipality this year established a Higher Education Forum to engage with the various tertiary institutions in the area. Greyling added that Bellville has the potential to become a vibrant student town with its own distinct character.
For more on the UWC Digital Innovation Hub, click HERE.