Pelebox Smart Lockers and the Hybrid Five-Axis Machine Tool are two South African innovations that have been shortlisted for the Royal Academy for Engineering’s (RAE’s) Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, accelerated by the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi).
The programme, designed by CiTi specifically for the RAE, uses a remote incubation model to deliver entrepreneurial training, coaching and mentorship over the seven-month programme period; coupled with three residency weeks which include workshops, networking events and local entrepreneurial engagement sessions.
The first residency week took place in Cape Town at the Bandwidth Barn in early November, and the following two will be held in London, in the UK, and Kampala, Uganda. The entrepreneurs also stand a chance to receive £25 000, or about R450 000, in prize money at the end of the programme.
All of the entrepreneurs will have direct access to both the Academy and CiTi’s vast network of engineers, technology professionals, businesses and industry leaders.
“We have found a dynamic synergy with the RAE, especially around our shared impact values,” CiTi CEO Ian Merrington commented on Monday.
“Making a difference and improving lives through technology by accelerating African innovation and African entrepreneurs is an objective shared by both organisations. CiTi has relished the opportunity to design a Pan-African incubation programme.
“We now find ourselves strongly positioned as an African partner to international organisations who want to deliver high-impact support for entrepreneurship on the continent through hybrid models of training and mentorship,” he elaborated.
Commenting on the rationale behind selecting CiTi as its incubation partner, RAE senior manager for international development Meredith Ettridge noted that, earlier this year, the RAE undertook a competitive tender process with a number of strong applications.
“Following careful review, we were very pleased to appoint CiTi as the training provider for the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, building on the success of the previous year. We were particularly pleased to award the contract to a training provider based in sub-Saharan Africa, and with such a strong history of support for entrepreneurs nationally and regionally,” she elaborated.
Of the shortlisted innovations, the Hybrid Five-Axis Machine Tool, developed by Dr Lukas du Plessis, works on five axes to allow users to shape, cut, grind, shear and otherwise form metals and hard materials with more precision.
“There’s so much manufacturing in South Africa that could be greatly improved if small and medium-sized businesses could afford machining tools like this – and my hope is to change that,” Du Plessis said.
Through this experience, he hopes to gain a fundamental understanding of entrepreneurial business so that he can support entrepreneurs in South Africa to establish compact manufacturing firms that are competitive internationally.
He also hopes to find a partner who shares his manufacturing vision and passion for machine tools.
The second South African innovation is the Pelebox Smart Locker system, developed by Neo Hutiri.
Pelebox is a smart locker system designed for public healthcare facilities to dispense chronic medicine to regular patients, cutting down on long queues and easing pressure on clinic resources.
Developed by Hutiri and his team for the South African healthcare system, the Pelebox is a simple wall of lockers, controlled by a digital system in the centre. Healthcare workers stock the lockers with chronic prescription refills, log the medicine on the system, and secure each locker.
Pelebox then sends patients a one-time personal identification number, which they enter into the system to unlock their medicine.
“The public healthcare system is so often under strain and Pelebox can take a lot of pressure off clinics that fill repeat prescriptions for regular patients,” Hutiri said.
“To be considered among thousands of innovators and entrepreneurs that would have applied for this prize is a testament to the work that we are doing on the ground in leveraging technology to serve people.
“Our vision is to create and promote inclusive technologies that solve challenging issues in healthcare. We feel that we are well positioned to solve the issue of long queues in clinics through technology that is patient-centric and easy to use,” he added.