SOMEWHERE right now in a far flung place in Limpopo, someone has come up with an idea that has changed the life of their community.
Perhaps it is a design that makes it easier for people to carry water from the river to their rural homes or an out-of-the-box idea that makes the work of subsistence farmers easier.
These innovators do not necessarily have university degrees or a formal education for that matter but their inventions are quietly changing the lives their communities.
Their inventions are often never noticed and never grow beyond their communities due to a lack of funds, technical and expert support.
But an ambitious government initiative is about to change that with the aim of plucking these ideas out of communities and allowing them to grow on a global stage.
And if you are an inventor or innovator, this initiative by the Technology Localisation Implementation Unit, called the Grassroots Innovation Programme could change your life.
The Technology Localisation Implementation Unit (TLIU) is a Department of Science and Technology funded initiative hosted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Ashley Bhugwandin, head of the unit, said they wanted to recognise and work with innovators and help them commercialise their ideas.
Individuals will be linked to experts and advanced facilities where their innovation or invention can be developed towards a commercial model.
Bhugwandin said the programme was important for the country as there are many South Africans who do not have access to a formal education and facilities.
“However there are many innovators that exist within these communities and these individuals through their innovations are making a positive impact in the community and the country.
However, if these individuals are provided with some basic assistance there is an opportunity for them to grow their ideas and thereby achieve greater reach. This programme is aimed at providing a formal approach to growing the innovations of these individuals,” he said.
Bhugwandin said the programme was open to any South African innovator who would not normally have access to formal education or research facilities.
“Many of these innovators are creating solutions based on challenges within their community to ensure that their community can lead a better life. However many of the solutions that are created will have applications to a greater South African audience and you will find that these innovations will have a local flavour that will resonate with South Africans. We believe that these innovations initially are from South Africans for South Africans,” he said.
The initiative aims to recognise innovators irrespective of their educational background, age, race or place in society and will provide them with a platform to excel at what they do.
The end goal, Bhugwandin added was to “eventually breed a society of entrepreneurs”.
Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Chief Director of Innovation for Inclusive Development at the Department of Science and Technology agreed.
“Observations have shown that successful grassroots innovators contribute to local economies and can provide cost-effective and frugal goods and services for quality of life-related priorities. Dedicated support to grassroots innovators is also key in inculcating and cultivating a spirit of innovation amongst the South African public and also demonstrates commitment towards achieving an inclusive and responsive national system of innovation,” she said.
Mkhize said they hoped the programme would strengthen the national efforts being implemented to build and strengthen innovation skills and expertise in “all the fields required for the development, running and management of modern economies”.
An added spin-off she explained was partnering with the private sector.
“In this regard, the initiative intends to contribute towards improving partnerships with the private sector. Our research also showed that through this programme the department and its partners are able to be informed on the sectors wherein grassroots innovators are innovating; respond to the science, technology and innovation needs of the grassroots innovators and non-government organisations to advance and support grassroots innovation,” Mkhize said.
And the journey to find these innovators has already started.
Innovators wanting to participate in the programme can log onto www.tliu.co.za and register their ideas on the portal. Once this is done, the steering committee will select projects that can be supported by the government.