South Africa needs to invest more and be willing to take more risk if it is to benefit from innovation. Geoffrey Qhena, CEO of the Industrial Development Corporation of SA Ltd. (IDC), says the Body is looking for more input from- and activity within the corporate space to help solid ideas reach the market.
Speaking at the 6th SA Innovation Summit, hosted in Johannesburg by the IDC and partners including SASOL, Telkom, SABS, Eskom and Rand Water, Qhena said that innovation is not only about developing technology and applying it in various sectors, it is about ‘ways of doing things’ and integrating these processes to bolster industries and sectors, and ultimately develop the economy says Qhena.
In terms of using innovation to enhance operations, South Africa is certainly making progress, but not enough claims Qhena, particularly on two fronts he says: the generation of ideas and providing the necessary financial support.
“We don’t do enough, as South Africans, to finance those (ideas) and give them a chance…we don’t tolerate failure to the extent that we should… ideas need funding and we should encourage that,” he said.
Aside from the role played by the corporate sector (and that of small-to-medium business and partnerships), Qhena referred to the efforts of academic institutions to enhance research and support innovators, saying that “more could be done”.
Qhena explained that whilst ideas have to be practical and sustainable to attract the necessary financing, in order for these ideas to be realised, they require the input of parties with long-term vision – those who are willing to take a risk on what may be creations that are ‘ahead of the curve’ or real ‘game changers’.
“Ideas have to be practical to implement and there should be a chance for us to create opportunities, either directly or indirectly, because we want the ideas to have an impact. We also want the ideas to be accepted by the markets. What happens is you have an innovation, you think its great, it is tried and tested… but not really accepted. Ideas have to have something different,” Qhena added.
He believes that industry-focused events, like the Innovation Summit, play a crucial role in facilitating discussion and networking amongst stakeholders to help innovators enter the market.
Chris Tredger – Online Editor