SA’s new gold rush opportunity: Commercialising SA university IP and tech

SA’s new gold rush opportunity: Commercialising SA university IP and tech

SA’s new gold rush opportunity: Commercialising SA university IP and tech

University Technology Fund (UTF) has approved six investments since February 2020.

For the first time in SA’s history, technology and innovation incubated in South Africa’s universities is being commercialised, creating a significant economic, investment and job creation opportunity for the country and elevating the country’s innovation capability onto the international stage.

Since February 2020, the UTF has raised R230 million, and thus far has invested in five companies that have developed technology for use in the biosciences/biotech, health and medical diagnostics, and energy industries. The five companies are BioCODE (University Stellenbosch); Phagoflux (University Stellenbosch); Cape Bio Pharms (University of Cape Town); Hydrogen Energy Applications – HYENA (University of Cape Town); Hyrax Biosciences (University of the Western Cape).

The UTF has also recently signed a term sheet to conclude an investment in Stellenbosch Nanofiber Company (University Stellenbosch) and is excited to close this investment in this world class technology company.

Funds invested in these opportunities will be allocated to pre-commercialisation funding, which includes proof of concept and technology development support, as well as for commercialisation and growth.

Wayne Stocks, Partner at the UTF, says: “The growth and scale of university technology funds globally is testament to the success of these funds as an investment asset class. Likewise, South Africa has the opportunity to commercialise its university developed IP and technology for the benefit of the country. While SA’s mining industry has been slow and largely unsuccessful in its beneficiation of the country’s gold, diamonds and other valuable minerals, in contrast, SA now has the opportunity to beneficiate a further valuable commodity which is its university IP and technology. The UTF intends to do just this for the benefit of the country and the economy.”

Tom Hockaday, Chairperson of the UTF, says: “South Africa has a wealth of untapped university IP and technology innovation that is ripe for commercialisation.  Our own experience in the UK shows us that this is an achievable objective that can have a hugely positive impact on the economy.  This fund will set South Africa on a trajectory to improve the economy and create jobs, and allow the country to develop products and services to better serve society, and improve people’s lives.”

Hockaday oversaw the expansion of Oxford University Innovation into one of the world’s leading University technology commercialisation organisations, and published his book, University Technology Transfer: What It Is and How to Do It, in April 2020.

Stocks adds: “Since our launch, it has become clear from the high quality and greater numbers of potential companies and technologies that we have identified across SA’s 26 universities, that more funds are required to unlock the potential of these businesses. Consequently, UTF is seeking additional funding from both local and international investors.”

Ketso Gordhan, CEO of the SA SME Fund, a core investor in the UTF, says: “We saw the need for South Africa and the African Continent’s first university tech fund, and so were very excited to help originate and provide the necessary seed funding. The UTF is an excellent example of what is possible when the public and private sector partner for the betterment of SA.”

UTF’s investors include the SA SME Fund, Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), Small Enterprise Funding Agency (sefa), the General Partner, and significant co-investment from the University of Stellenbosch (US) and University of Cape Town (UCT).