UCT’s mission states inter alia that UCT “aspires to become the premier academic meeting point between South Africa, the rest of Africa and the world. Taking advantage of expanding global networks and our distinct vantage point in Africa, we are committed, through innovative research and scholarship, to grapple with the key issues of our natural and social worlds.” Our staff and students are living this mission through their innovative research, which has led to the discovery of new drug compounds and crop varieties, and to advances in nanotechnology and medical devices. These researchers are agents and catalysts for new ideas, creating solutions that contribute to our country's competitiveness and improve the quality of life of its people.

At the end of 2010 we acknowledged and celebrated our researchers’ contributions to innovation withthe publication Innovation at UCT 2010.  No one reading that report can fail to be awed and energised by the work that is being done at UCT, some of which is also showcased in the pages that follow.

Two other publications were launched in 2010 at an Innovation Evening where past and present inventors were recognised.  These publications were:

  • The Inventors Handbook, which is given to inventors at the time of invention disclosure to provide them with detailed information on UCT processes and patent office requirements relating to the filing of a provisional patent and the Gate Review requirements for the later stages of patenting.
  • A UCT Laboratory Notebook, which is compliant with international standards for both intellectual property management and good laboratory practice.

However, despite these successes there is still much to be done to foster innovation at UCT. There is an increasing need to develop a focused strategy for innovation that dovetails with our research strategy. To this end, a working group was established in 2010 to investigate the state of innovation at UCT. Interviews with a cross-section of the UCT research community provided considerable insight into the challenges the innovation community faces and an interim report was compiled as the first step towards addressing such challenges.

Regular seminars and training sessions for staff and students were also introduced in 2010. The seminar series covered a range of issues from basic intellectual property to the role and responsibilities of a director of a company.  Video presentations based on recordings from past Big Idea Conferences, which focus on entrepreneurship and running a business, have proved very popular with the student community in particular. 

Our researchers’ many achievements are also reflected in the numbers. We have seen an increase in the number of invention disclosures and patents and the number of licence agreements, as well as acknowledgeable income. As at the end of 2010, our Pre-seed Fund, established in 2008, had granted close to R1.5million to several innovative academics and researchers and helped turn good ideas into viable innovation projects. At least four of these already have outcomes that can be commercialised, either through licensing or spin-out company formation.

UCT researchers partner with industry, other higher education institutions, and national and international governmental/intergovernmental entities in many different ways. These partnerships range from grants, service contracts, collaborative research agreements, material transfer agreements and clinical trial agreements to major research consortia, and often these initiatives involve multiple local and/or international partners. A record 1056 contracts at a value of R550 million (also a record) were entered into in 2010, of which408 contracts to the value of R382.49 million (vs. R334.7 million in 2009 and R340 million in 2008) were entered into with entities from 39 countries.

As we look ahead, a key focus will be to monitor the impact of some significant changes in the South African Intellectual Property (IP) and innovation landscape which were announced in 2010. These included the promulgation of the IP Rights from Publicly Funded Research and Development Act, the establishment of an interim National Intellectual Property Management Office and the official launch of the Technology Innovation Agency.

Our Office will continue to be vigilant to ensure that our researchers are kept abreast of important developments and opportunities so that UCT and its researchers can continue to make a significant contribution to South Africa and the world with its innovative work.

Piet Barnard
Director: Research Contracts and Intellectual Property Services Office


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