The East London industrial development zone (Elidz) on Thursday afternoon officially launched its Science and Technology Park (STP), which is aimed at speeding up the pace of economic development in the Eastern Cape.
The STP’s location within the Elidz was expected to increase the competitive advantage of the industrial development zone (IDZ) in line with the global trend of science parks becoming an important part of a country's economic landscape.
This had become evident in countries such as China, Russia and Brazil, which have managed to integrate science parks into their countries' industrial development plans.
"The Elidz STP is designed as an attractive, functional and interactive space to encourage the exchange of ideas and facilitate the development of creative and technical solutions to problems.
“Its service includes various laboratory facilities, training platforms, an open innovation platform, networking solutions, as well as incubator services," said Elidz CEO Simphiwe Kondlo.
He added that, collaborating with the International Association of Science Parks (Iasp), meant that the Elidz STP had the opportunity to network with almost every globally recognised science park.
Consequently, this collaboration provided the opportunity for innovative solutions developed within the Elidz STP to be globally recognised, which, in turn, could lead to innovators either selling their technology or attracting financing to further create a market for their technology.
"The Elidz STP is not only the first science park to be launched within an IDZ in South Africa, but it also acts as an enabler of the development of 'Smart Cities', which place science and technology at the forefront of economic development," stated Iasp president McLean Sibanda.
Meanwhile, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research group executive Dr Rachel Chikwamba mentioned that the Elidz STP's inception supported the development of new industries, which would be based on "sound science and technology principles".
Moreover, information and communication technology (ICT) services provider Dimension Data chairperson Dr Andile Ngcaba highlighted that, as technological development continues through the Elidz STP, the ultimate goal had to be the creation of entrepreneurs and establishing more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which would further drive the National Development Plan.
"The Elidz STP is a key development in the Eastern Cape provincial innovation system. It is envisaged that it will catalyse the development of provincial knowledge-based activities that will feed into the development of the Eastern Cape," stressed Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor during her keynote address at the launch.
She further indicated that the STP would allow the industrial, research, SME and governmental partners to leverage "scaled economies" created by shared facilities, such as the creative and attractive common area, that future start-up companies could use when conducting their business at the STP.
The Minister further praised the presence of the incubation programmes by Dimension Data's Cortex Hub, Eastern Cape Information and Technology Initiative and chemistry and minerology company Chemin as the "future promise" for the resourcing and capacitating of start-ups especially in the ICT and high-technology innovation space.
"These may well become the future business and industry leaders of the local and regional innovation system".
Pandor concluded that the STP would play a key role in connecting and fostering cooperation between the science, technology and innovative knowledge partners within the area and would also inform the appropriate frameworks for future innovation infrastructure.