Young people pursuing entrepreneurship opportunities and hoping to make a positive, meaningful contribution to the economy must look to the intersection of science, technology and human development challenges, and understand that opportunities lie in finding solutions for these, Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) Sustainable Human Settlements director Tshepang Mosiea said on June 30.
He was speaking during a webinar, hosted by departments and entities in the economic cluster, under the theme: 'Enabling Conditions for Accessing Opportunities for Youth: A discussion with senior front-line public servants on how to navigate the intricacies of government services'.
The webinar unpacked government programmes and economic opportunities available to young people.
Mosiea said the society that was emerging was one of digital transformation and that there were opportunities emerging for the youth to become entrepreneurs, start their own technology businesses, develop new products, create income, create new value, and solve societal challenges such as climate change, injustice and energy through innovation and technology.
He highlighted several youth innovation incentive schemes and programmes funded by the DSI that support the youth in harnessing opportunities.
These include the Biomanufacturing Industry Development Centre programme, a hub for open innovation in biomanufacturing. There is also the Data Science for Impact and Decision Enable programme, that aims to support capacity building in the field of data science.
Moreover, there is the Science, Technology and Youth Journalist Programme, which intends to promote interest in science and technology among disadvantaged youth.
Also, the information and communications technology enabled programme intends to exploit the benefits of information and combination technology to enable timeous access to agriculture extension advisory information.
Mosiea also highlighted the Grassroots Innovation Programme (GIP). This has the strategic intent to address the challenges of access to technology development and business development support faced by grassroots innovators who largely operate outside of formal systems of innovation.
This programme is positioned to enable innovators who would not have received funding for their ideas, to receive support.
The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) has implemented this programme as a contracted initiative of the DSI since 2018.
Mosiea enthused about the success of the programme thus far, with an initial cohort of 60 grassroots innovator projects having been funded in the last 12 months.
The total funding budget for the programme over the two years is R26-million.
According to the programme, a grassroots innovator is one who does not have access to formal innovation networks or infrastructure; therefore, one who works outside of the national system of innovation and operates in the informal economy with minimal support for their innovations.
This definition is said to lower the barriers of access to innovation support for individuals from resource-poor backgrounds, and enable them to get access to research and development support from established institutions.
Projects are considered from concept to initial prototype.
The primary target group is youth, women, persons with disabilities and/or those who come from townships and rural communities.
The programme is targeting five innovation outputs to be taken up in the market or industry. Mosiea acclaimed that there are currently four projects in process.
Also mentioned during the webinar was the Black Industrialists Program. This forms part of government’s broad industrialisation initiative to expand the industrial base and inject new entrepreneurial dynamism into the economy.
It aims to accelerate the participation of black industrialists in the economy and selected industrial sectors and value chains.
Market research by the department has indicated several sectors that are severely lacking in participation by black people, and where access is difficult. This includes the oceans economy, oil and gas, clean technology and energy, mineral beneficiation, and industrial infrastructure, amongst others.
Support for black industrialists in this programme comes from the Black Industrialisation Financing Forum; collaboration with multinational and State-owned enterprises; and training and capacity building.