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R1m prize for Gauteng innovation

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The Gauteng Innovation Competition is looking for innovative solutions to improve local government service delivery in the province. The competition, with prize money of R1 million, invites entries in the two themes of mobile and green technology.

Implemented through The Innovation Hub in Tshwane, a subsidiary of Blue IQ, the competition is an initiative of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development (DED) of which Blue IQ is an agency. The province has long recognised innovation as a key driver of social and economic development, and this competition will support government’s initiatives. An open competition format has proven to be a much more effective platform for encouraging and acquiring innovation.

McLean Sibanda, CEO of the Innovation Hub, explains that the advantages of a competition of this nature is not only the access to new ideas, knowledge and innovative solutions that the municipalities can use to address service delivery, but also the opportunities for inventive people and entrepreneurs to find commercialisation of their clever thinking.

‚The competition format supports the mandate of local government and also provides a much-needed boost for fledgling enterprises,‚ says Ben Zaaiman, CEO of mLab Southern Africa, which is an implementation partner providing domain expertise for the mobile theme of the competition. He says that it can be very difficult for innovative startups to find the resources to commercialise their solutions.

‚Innovators need to have the freedom to build their products and their businesses without worrying ‚ for a while at least ‚ about how they will put bread on the table.‚ says Zaaiman, ‚This is why the bulk of the prize money will be given out as a seed grant.‚

The competition aims to assist in bringing local government and the innovators to the same table. The goal is to find a first pilot customer for the solutions within local government and if the solutions prove successful, there may be interest from other provinces as well.

‚The two themes of mobile and green technology were chosen to respond to priority growth sectors identified in the Gauteng Employment Growth and Development Strategy (GEGDS) within the province. Mobile phones have penetrated into peoples’ lives faster than any other information technology, and with nearly 100% of South African households having access to a mobile phone, this provides a unique channel for reaching citizens and making government services more accessible, effective, and efficient for all concerned,‚ says Zaaiman.

The need to move towards a more environmentally sustainable economic structure has been recognised both at national and provincial level, as laid out in the Green Strategic Programme for Gauteng approved by the Gauteng Executive Committee in August 2011.

‚Local government is not only the primary provider of water and energy resources in the province, it is also a substantial user,‚ says McLean, ‚We need to find better ways to manage these resources.‚

The competition is open for entries from individuals, teams or businesses, and the proposed solutions can be at any stage from concept to the early stages of commercial feasibility.

Entries need to display substantial levels of innovation, which can be in the technologies, their applications, or the novelty of the business models implementing the solution.

The competition will open on 15 December 2011, and the closing date for accepting entries will be the 29th February 2012. Visit http://www.gautenginnovation.co.za for more information.

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