The 7th South Africa Innovation Summit (SAIS) was hosted in Cape Town for the first time from 16 – 18 Sept 2014, and Accelerate Cape Town partnered with SAIS on the CEO Panel Discussion. This CEO Panel was moderated by Dr Francis Petersen, National Advisory Council of Innovation and featured the following speakers to discuss innovation in their respective companies, the contribution of innovation to their value proposition and how the environment could be enhanced to stimulate innovation:

  • Bhaskar Ramani, CIO International, General Electric Transportation
  • Thabo Molekoa, Du Pont Sustainable Solutions Regional Director
  •  Frik Landman, CEO USB Executive Development.

What is the philosophy of innovation in your company and its contribution to your value proposition:

  •  Bhaskar Ramani, GE –  GE is a 120 year old company and has invested R700m into innovation in South Africa. This includes a R500m Innovation Centre in Midrand and R200m towards supplier development of SMEs. GE is working with Transnet on the provision of 465 diesel locomotives and developed a portable ultrasound scanner. Innovation is very much part of GE’s culture and they have developed FastWorks with the help of Eric Reis, author of Lean Start-up to foster innovation and hasten product development.
  • Thabo Molekoa, Du Pont  – Du Pont is a 212 year old integrated science company working in sectors such as Agri, Health, Transport, Safety, Environment, etc. They have  produced products such as nylon, kevlar and teflon and look at global megatrends to inform innovation. With a growing global population, they look at what solutions they can collaborate on to address this trend such as enhance food production, decrease dependency on fossil fuels, protect the environment, etc. Their Regional Technology Centre is located in Delmas with the aim to deliver more new products to Africa faster.
  •  Frik Landman, USB Ed – as a separate company focusing on executive education, USB Ed ensure collaboration internally across within the University of Stellenbosch, with civil society partners and across 12 African countries. Their responsibility is to innovate and share new ways of management, new learning processes and enhance how business is conducted in society.

 How can we enhance the environment to foster innovation?

  • Bhaskar Ramani, GE – GE have launched their 3rd Annual Global Innovation Barometer ranking 50 countries on the drivers and deterrents of innovation. South Africa ranks on a par with other countries globally at the Executive/CEO level, but the regulatory environment is not the best for innovation. In fact, South Africa ranks 45 out of 50 for its policy environments and conduciveness for innovation by peers.
  • Thabo Molekoa, Du Pont – for Du Pont, collaboration is essential with other institutions such as the University of Pretoria and CSIR. The Governments role is to provide an environment that is conducive for innovation to thrive.
  •  Frik Landman, USB Ed – Frik commented on the stringent way in which higher education is regulated in South Africa. He also commented on the lack of skilled managers which is also highlighted in the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. For South Africa to succeed, more higher education institutions are required and a comparison to Brazil revealed considerably less institutions per capita in South Africa.

The SA Innovation Summit aspires to raise awareness in innovation, facilitate collaboration and contribute to building the national system of innovation and will be held in Cape Town for 2015 and 2016.