Postgraduate Research &
Innovation Symposium (PRIS)

Research Day Promotes Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Doing research for impact beyond publishing and becoming job creators rather than job seekers were emphasised during an innovation stream event on UKZN’s Westville campus.

UKZN’s InQubate Technology Transfer Office hosted the event during the seventh annual College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) Postgraduate Research Day.

‘The aim of the day was to foster a culture of innovation so that students do research for impact beyond publishing as well as to show them that they have the potential to become job-creators as opposed to job-seekers,’ said InQubate’s Dr Umeshree Govender.

The day included informative presentations to students on Intellectual Property (IP) and how to commercialise it as well as a Student Innovation Competition.

Representatives from Law firm Spoor and Fisher addressed the question of whether to patent innovations, when the process is appropriate, and how a sound IP strategy aids in successful commercialisation.

Mr Philipp Steiner, a successful serial entrepreneur from ConnectingtheDots, and representatives from Biomass Market, DalinYebo Trading and Development, Bioeconomic Developments NPC, and Cobelec, delivered presentations to students that included information about the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme.

Liselo Labs representatives spoke on bridging the gap between academia and the market.

The KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) introduced its technology transfer fund that supports the development for commercialisation of technologies based at KwaZulu-Natal Institutions of Higher Education.

The day’s highlight was the Student Innovation Competition. The first category featured nine students with innovative research projects while the second showcased technology-based business ideas presented by seven students.

The Innovative Research category winner was Mr Tamrat Tesfaye Yimer for his valorisation of chicken waste feathers to produce valuable materials project, while Ms Robynn-Lisa Poul secured second place for her genetic engineering of E. coli for the production of polylactic acid and/or polyhydroxyyalkanoates – a polymer with great potential for commercial use.

Mr Caleb Pillay won third prize for his work to find lytic bacteriophages to treat etiological agents of bovine mastitis through biocontrol.

First prize in the business competition went to Mr Lloyd Gordon who developed a Vula app that solves various mathematical problems.

A launch pad that provides students and matriculants with up-to-date information on bursaries, internships, scholarships and private funding opportunities, secured Ms Serini Reddy and her team second place while the third prize was won by Mr Wellington Samatanda for his Smart Grid that uses engineering principles to harness energy from moving vehicles via speed bumps.

The judging panel included representatives from the KZN EDTEA, ConnectingTheDots, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), eThekwini Chemicals Cluster, Adams and Adams, Spoor & Fisher and Liselo Labs.

Winners received cash prizes sponsored by UKZN InQubate, with category one applicants receiving support with acquiring further funding from the TIA and EDTEA’s Technology Transfer fund.  Category two applicants will be included in InQubate’s Student Entrepreneurship Programme.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Albert Hirasen