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Step Up to new ideas

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A new commercialisation support programme, The Step-Up Technology Innovation Competition, has been launched to fast-track business development of technology innovations.

Sponsored by government’s Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and Sasol’s enterprise development vehicle, SasolChemCity, Step-Up seeks innovations in the health and biotechnology, chemicals, mining and manufacturing, information and communication technologies, food and agriculture, energy and green environment sectors.

This multi-faceted programme aims to address the most relevant networking, business, financing and knowledge requirements of each participant who reaches the finalist stage. Entry is open to any South African over the age of 16, who can enter online on www.step-up.org.za. Step-Up convenes the collective energy and resources of government, venture capitalists and incubators to steer early-stage initiatives up the value chain into sustainable production.

The TIA and Sasol ChemCity will evaluate entries for inclusion in their extensive range of financial and non-financial support programmes, whether it is an initial idea or an existing innovation business. This is additional to the prizes and other benefits associated with winning the competition.

Finalists and winners stand to benefit from global introductions to business leaders through the international partnership group, The SABLE Accelerator (South African Business Link to Experts), dedicated to helping South African entrepreneurs, new venture start-ups, academic institutions, and companies commercialise technology innovations, promote and protect intellectual property, fund new business concepts, finance growth, and expand into global markets.

Top achievers in the competition will be assessed for possible funding by venture capital and growth funding vehicles with a focus on alleviating the country’s socio-economic and environmental challenges. These include global and local heavyweights Hasso Plattner Ventures Africa, Impact Amplifier, Crowdinvest and Horizen Ventures.

Access to knowledge and networks will be provided by the regional network-building and mentorship capacity of enterprise development bodies Enablis and SAINe, while those whose innovations require software development can enter into Microsoft’s Bizspark developer programme.

Individuals or small and medium sized businesses who have developed or are pioneering some form of technology innovation that requires local and international networks, mentorship and funding to get to the next level, have until 30 September 2013 to pitch their ideas in a new innovation competition.

The competition is open to early-stage innovators working on projects or ideas with commercial potential, or more established innovation-based SMMEs in need of financial or non-financial support in scaling up. It has the potential to accelerate rapid progress by linking entrepreneurs to the right people, sources of funding and business development resources.

All entrants will receive up to 4 hours of high-value consulting time with selected SABLE advisers, as well as a 3-month engagement with experienced and reputable industry mentors. In addition, in partnership with the SA Business and Technology Incubation Association (SABTIA), entrants who would benefit from incubation will be referred to appropriate incubators.

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