15 October 2020 Volume :8 Issue :44

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme Sparks Interest in KZN

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Programme Sparks Interest in KZN
Professor Tulio de Oliveira (right) and Ms Gugu Mkhize presented a webinar on SPARK South Africa to representatives of government, industry and academics.

The KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) and biotechnology incubator, BioDurban have launched the SPARK South Africa programme, which will see R1.3 million distributed annually as seed funding to develop new business and translational science start-ups.

At a webinar attended by government and industry representatives, and academics Director of KRISP, UKZN’s Professor Tulio de Oliveira said the partnership will engage with government departments and private industries to advance capacity building and economic development in KwaZulu-Natal.

SPARK South Africa supports the development of novel therapeutics, diagnostics and health technologies for unmet medical needs. ‘More than the funding, this comes with a large translational science training programme with Stanford University and 26 other top academic institutions in the world,’ said de Oliveira.

De Oliveira added that anticipated returns for the city of Durban include translational research infrastructure development, human capital development and development of the knowledge-based economy. ‘The SPARK programme aims to create an entrepreneurial culture at all public research organisations in Durban and we want to contribute to the development of a knowledge-based economy,’ he said.

SPARK South Africa is particularly keen to support projects proposing novel and innovative solutions for diagnostics and treatment that address the leading causes of death in South Africa including:

•    HIV and AIDS and tuberculosis (TB);

•    other infectious diseases including SARS-CoV-2;

•    non-communicable diseases;

•    maternal, new-born and child health.

Programme co-ordinator Ms Gugu Mkhize said selected projects would receive seed funding up to the value of R300 000 per project. ‘The funding would be tied to agreed-upon milestones,’ she said. Mkhize explained that all projects need to be developed and/or incubated within the boundaries of eThekwini Municipality.

She added that the SPARK programme is a partnership between university and industry advisors which seeks to educate faculty, fellows and graduate students on the translational research process, help advance novel therapeutics and diagnostics to the clinic or commercial sector and promote efficient, cost-effective and innovative approaches to drug discovery and development.

SPARK projects will receive mentorship from industry experts, access to workshops on “how to develop a solution” and “what you need to understand about business and finance” and access to the global network of SPARK programmes and their affiliates.

The BioDurban SPARK programme is a unique partnership between KRISP, UKZN, industry and eThekwini Municipality. For more information, click here: http://biodurban.org/spark_sa_call_sept2021/


The deadline for applications is Wednesday, 21 October 2020, at 18h00.

Researchers must be appointed at Higher Education Institutions for at least the duration of the proposed project. Clinicians, postdoctoral fellows, and postgraduate students are eligible to apply but must include a faculty member as a co-PI on the application.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Image: Supplied

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