New competition opens up fast lane for entrepreneurs in technology innovation

08 STEP UP1 caption 300x199 New competition opens up fast lane for entrepreneurs in technology innovation

Dr Muhammed Sayed, Business Development Manager at the Technology Innovation Agency

WE all have ideas. Some of them, if not most of them, dissolve away into our busy lives or starve for lack of attention. But some of them are so good that they demand attention and won’t let us rest.

These are the business ideas that often have the potential to make a difference in people’s lives.

The world, for all kinds of reasons, is screaming for new and better ways of doing things. Developing and commercializing these really good ideas can create significant wealth.

But in reality, very few ideas become truly profitable businesses. That’s because the person or people behind the idea struggle to take the next step and understanding what to do in order to be successful.

Innovators require access to specialist skills, knowledge and financial and non-financial resources to develop and take a product to market. These skills and resources are not easy to find. And when you do find them, they can be expensive. Even if you can afford them, you need to know how to manage their contributions, because ultimately, it is your business.

The path to successful commercialization is almost never straightforward or simple. If it was, we would all be wealthy entrepreneurs.

So it’s good news for any innovative individual or business that the Step-Up Technology Innovation Competition has been launched by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and Sasol.

Step-Up is a national competition to give individuals, groups and businesses – particularly small businesses – the opportunity to have their technology innovations evaluated and, if selected, to be assisted with access to a range of support programmes, including:

  • Introductions to investors and venture capital funds.
  • Consideration for TIA innovation and business support funding and non-financial support.
  • Introduction to short or long term mentors relevant to your industry and business.
  • Exposure to the range of DTI and DST incentive programmes for emerging and growing businesses.
  • Assistance with selection of and access to incubation facilities.

Any South African citizen or legal permanent resident over the age of 16 is eligible to enter the competition.

If you have a technology idea or innovation in any of the competition sectors, even if it is just at raw concept stage, as well as any business activity based on such an idea or innovation, you are likely to be eligible to enter the competition. If you are selected as a finalist after the first round of scoring, which will be based on the content of your entry form, you will be invited to make an “in person” presentation to the judging panel for your industry sector. This will be a one-hour presentation, during which you will be able to explain your idea or business in detail, with the emphasis on the commercial potential of your idea or innovation.

The judges will also be able to pose questions to you. The panel presentation will be conducted in a supportive and enabling environment, and you will be able to bring colleagues, prototypes, samples or any other supporting elements to assist you in explaining your proposal.

These panels will select the winners in each industry sector. The competition covers technology innovations in these six sectors: Health and biotechnology, chemical, mining and manufacturing, information and communication technologies, food and agriculture, and energy and the environment.

In each of these sectors, Step-Up will welcome entries for technology innovations that relate to or involve one or more of the following components:

  • Primary production, manufacture or generation of a product, service or goods involving a defined improvement or advance in the mode of production, distribution or in the delivery of value;
  • Enhanced efficiency, competitiveness, affordability or accessibility of any aspect of the upstream or downstream value chains in the industry;
  • Enhanced distribution, knowledge, collaboration or competition in relation to any product or service;
  • A new technology idea, approach, method or process which promises improvement of some kind with benefits to producers and/or consumers; and
  • Beneficial novelty or improvement in any feature,component or operation of a system, product, service, process or organization.

Entry to the competition is only via the on-line competition portal at

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  • Mahera

    How to enter in the competition ?
    Mahera Hira

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