One of the fruits of the university’s research activities is the stream of ideas and inventions with commercial and social potential. This year’s Innovation Evening and the associated Innovation brochure again left me amazed and proud – every year we have so much to celebrate and are continually blessed with new rising stars. For example, the 36 new disclosures in 2012 included 14 brand-new UCT inventors. Similarly, 19 new UCT patent holders were among the recipients of the 26 patents granted in 2012.  

2012 also saw UCT taking equity in the printed silicon electronics spin-out, PST Sensors (Pty) Ltd, and in the process assigning 13 patent families (with 19 patents being granted in that portfolio in 2012) to the company. Another spinout, Southern Access Technologies, now re-named Strait Access Technologies Holdings (Pty) Ltd & Strait Access Technologies (Pty) Ltd, received extensive support and investment from the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and Bidvest Ltd. In addition, CapeRay Medical (Pty) Ltd raised a second round of funding through the IDC Venture Capital Fund.

Tuluntulu (Pty) Ltd was the only spin-out company formed in 2012 based on UCT technology, following three in 2011. But a number are waiting in the wings and much time has been spent on planning for the formation of several other companies that are likely to be launched during the course of 2013. Tuluntulu (Pty) Ltd was formed to commercialise intellectual property (IP) developed by a TIA-funded consortium led by the CSIR, to which UCT had contributed IP. The technology, Adaptive Real-Time Internet Streaming Technology (ARTIST) uses algorithms to adjust quality to available bandwidth to ensure viewing continuity. The success of this technology solution was recognised through an award from the NSTF-BHP Billiton for Outstanding Contribution to Science, Engineering, Technology, and Innovation through Research Leading to Innovation in a Corporate Organisation or Institution.

Probably one of UCT’s most successful social responsiveness projects, the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Poison Information Centre, has launched its re-developed 30-year-old poisons information system on an Internet-enabled platform with mobile device accessibility. The database, already in use at more than 30 centres throughout South Africa, as well as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, and Nigeria, will, through this new platform, ’Afritox‘, become accessible to the broader medical-practitioner community.

Research contracts to the value of R682 million were processed, which is slightly down from the R722 million of 2011. This should, however, be seen in the context of the dramatic increases that were experienced over the last few years – from R337 million in 2006, to R550 million in 2010, and the exceptionally high R722 million in 2011.

RCIPS’s activities have been greatly enhanced following funding support by the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO). We were able to appoint new staff as well as external experts to review ’innovation hotspots‘ within UCT and develop appropriate strategies. We thank NIPMO for this support.

Many new initiatives are on the cards for 2013, but I will mention just two. ’IP Savvy‘ will allow our researchers to improve their intellectual property knowledge through online modular presentations and, on successful completion of a quiz, researchers are awarded a certificate certifying them as ’IP Savvy‘.

We are also going to introduce the Café Scientifique concept to Cape Town. These events, sometimes dubbed as ’science for the sociable‘, bring people together in a friendly, informal ’pub‘ atmosphere in an after-work, happy-hour context to discuss and explore the latest ideas in science and technology in laypersons’ terms. In essence, it will start with an informal talk on a key UCT invention given by the inventors themselves, who will highlight key aspects of their research and the resulting commercial opportunities, followed by question and answer exchanges, debate and general discussion around the technology – an opportunity for everyone to express an opinion, expert or otherwise.

Always exciting, always lekker! Imnandi!

Director: Research Contracts and Intellectual Property Services Office