Entrepreneurial Boot Camp for UKZN Students
UKZN InQubate hosted a highly contested business pitching event titled: Invest Den in partnership with the Technology Innovation Agency.
A unit within the UKZN Research Division, UKZN InQubate focuses on the development of the University’s intellectual property in ways that benefit society and the economy; student entrepreneurship; as well as building relationships between academic experts within the University and industry through its consultancy programme.
A call for applications to compete in the event was made to all UKZN students early in September. A total of 41 student business ideas were entered.
The business student cohort was taken through an intensive entrepreneurial development programme using the Kawasaki Pitch Deck. This culminated in a weekend Entrepreneurship Boot Camp, with the business pitch event taking place a few days later during which the Top 10 candidates were showcased.
InQubate Director of Intellectual Property and Commercialisation, Ms Suvina Singh, outlined the Student Entrepreneurship Skills Programme, ENSPIRETM, which is geared at stimulating economic activity and enhancing job creation. Singh said the commitment of the participating students in terms of their entrepreneurial development was so high that all 30 would receive preliminary business support from InQubate.
First place at the Invest Den went to SmartiPants (Pty) Ltd with their innovative mechatronics and robotics workshops geared at promoting Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering for learners. Co-founder and Managing Director of SmartiPants, Ms Nonjabulo Gasa, said the group comprises of Civil, Mechanical, Electronic, Computer Science and Engineering students who not only empower communities with fourth industrial revolutions skills, but also offer professional engineering consulting.
Gasa ran master classes on drone technology for 120 learners at the very first UBER Innovation Master Class in Durban for Qhakaza Girl IT. ‘They assembled their own drones, which actually flew, so right now, in Umlazi, Thabo and Sindi know how to assemble and build their own drones!’ said Gaza.
SmartiPants are finalists in the Maritime Challenge powered by Transnet, ORACLE and Innovate Durban. ‘We have actually solved a problem in the maritime sector already – we currently have a prototype which will use virtual reality to automate cranes in the Durban Port,’ said Gasa.
The team of engineering and science boffins who won first prize of R200 000 at Invest Den announced they have also been selected by Care For Education - the Lego Foundation from the internationally renowned toy building brick company - to co-facilitate the first township World Robot Olympiad for Durban in 2019!
Second prize of R150 000 went to Siyakha Roofing Solutions, while Clinalytics Solutions, which looks at easily accessible health records for doctors operating in rural communities, finished third, winning R100 000.
Student teams ranked between 4th and 10th place each received R80 000 business development funding.
UKZN Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, emphasised the role universities should play in addressing economic growth and unemployment in South Africa. ‘It’s not just about producing graduates. It’s also about producing graduates who are fit for purpose and make meaningful contributions to society,’ said Ramjugernath.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
Photographs: Mandla Hlongwane