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Excellent business opportunities await investors at ‘catalytic’ KZN Techno Hubs

Durban, South Africa: In his recent State of the Nation address president Cyril Ramaphosa noted that South Africa’s future prosperity as a nation depends on its ability to take full advantage of rapid technological change.
“We urgently need to develop our capabilities in the areas of science, technology and innovation,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal has for the past three years been ramping up its capabilities in the technology and innovation sphere with the development of Techno Hubs, a project which the provincial government, led by the KZN Treasury, adopted as part of its Provincial Growth Development Plan.

The aims of the initiative, which was identified as a catalytic project by the office of the provincial premier, are to promote the knowledge economy, drive socio-economic development and increase competitiveness.

The Techno Hubs are located in strategic locations across the province - in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ), Port Shepstone (Ray Nkonyeni Municipality), Newcastle (Newcastle Municipality) and Pietermaritzburg (Msunduzi Municipality).

Background

In 2015 the provincial government appointed a steering committee that was tasked with overseeing, coordinating and giving strategic direction to the Techno Hubs project.
The committee included all stakeholders, including the host municipalities and the RBIDZ. GWI was appointed as the professional service provider for programme management of the delivery of the projects for the three-year contract which commenced on April 1, 2015.

Grant funding of R120 million from the European Union, channelled through National Treasury to KZN Treasury, became available to start the project.

Gearing for growth

According to Simiso Magagula, the Head of Department in the KZN Treasury, the hubs will provide a much-needed catalyst for economic growth and he is confident that investors will “embrace this platform.”
“That level of consciousness about how important it is to be innovative in everything you do will go a long way to assisting the province achieve its economic growth goals,” said Magagula, speaking at the KZN Techno Hubs Opportunity Expo held at the Dube Trade Port in Durban.

The expo was held to promote the Techno Hubs project and to provide potential investors with information about the wide range of incentives the various municipalities and the RBIDZ are offering for setting up their businesses in one of the hub locations.

The main aim is the commercialisation of innovative ideas through which products, processes, strategies and services are formulated to create jobs and wealth. Aligned with this objective is to provide an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative business concepts and progress from start-ups to being sustainable and successful entities.

“If we can have one or two products that are game changers out in the market having used the platform of the Techno Hubs, I will be the happiest man,“ said Magagula.

Neli Shezi, deputy director general for fiscal resource management at the KZN Treasury, echoed Magagula, saying “it will be interesting to see new ideas and new entrants that came in for incubation who have survived for the period and who have actually established a sustainable business. That would be the ultimate goal.”

Knowledge + Innovation + Enterprise + Business

The four core functions of a technology hub include knowledge, innovation, enterprise and business.

The knowledge function allows for idea generation, the innovation function generates focused research and development and facilitates technology transfer. Enterprise and business bring these ideas to the market.

Businesses that are innovation orientated are the tenants, driving the research and development agenda of each Technology Hub. Academia essentially supports the research and development agenda, while government facilitates research and development activities and attracts investment, both domestic and foreign, into the hubs.

“The thinking behind the hubs is to have a ‘live, work, play’ environment driven by technology and innovation,” said Basil Karstadt, managing director of GWI Group, the programme managers.

“At the moment we are in that space . . . that’s what’s happening in business,” he added.

Tim Madgwick, the technical advisor of the Infrastructure Delivery Management System in the KZN Treasury, said the project will have a positive impact on the province because it has been listed as a “catalytic project”.

“KZN is going to be seen as a centre where we can develop innovation, where we can develop people, and where we can have opportunities for people and hope going forward,” he said.

“This is an exciting project. We don’t talk enough in government about the good things we do, and this is a great thing we have done,” said Madgwick.

Karstadt urged potential investors to explore the various opportunities that exist. “It’s an excellent opportunity for businesses,” he said.

Magagula said the KZN Treasury will assist investors where they could and would help facilitate with the transactional requirements.

“KZN is open for business,” said Magagula. “ Come and invest and we will make sure that your location in the Techno Hubs is as good as it gets.”

President Ramaphosa said South Africans are well attuned to innovation and to technology, and made a call for us all to exploit this area so that “we can grow our economy.”

The KZN Techno Hubs have answered his call.