Could an Open Innovation Model Help Establish Sustainable Bioeconomies In Africa?

Moderator:
Dr Hennie Groenewald
Panellists:
Dr Antonel Olckers
Dr Victor Konde
Mr Ben Durham
Ms Lerato Mohalajeng

Dr Antonel Olckers

Antonel Olckers founded DNAbiotec (Pty)Ltd in 2001. She holds a PhD degree in molecular human genetics from the University of Pretoria for which she performed research at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, MD, USA. Her expertise in science and innovation is combined in DNAbiotec which is a knowledge based biotech company. Over the past 17 years the company has generated IP and translated its IP into products that are actively trading in the market. Dr Olckers is a strong advocate for empowering the next generation of scientists in South Africa and Africa. Over the past two decades she has served on the (then) National Biotech Advisory Committee of NACI, the advisory boards of several biotech entities, the BioEconomy Strategy Steering Committee, and currently also on the advisory board of NIPMO. She is the first chairperson of the newly formed South African Academy of Forensics Sciences (SAAFS), the first independent forensic science professional body in South Africa. She has supervised more than 30 post-graduate students, some of whom now lead biotechnology institutions in South Africa. In 2018 Dr Olckers received the BioFundi “Lifetime Achievement” award for her work in biotechnology and innovation across different sectors.

Dr Hennie Groenewald

Hennie Groenewald is the executive manager of Biosafety South Africa, a national biosafety service platform, within the Technology Innovation Agency and under the auspices of the national Department of Science and Technology. It is the principal instrument within the national biotech innovation system which enables compliant, sustainable and effective research & development, innovation and commercialisation in the biotech sector. He has 28 years of experience in biotechnology research and development, teaching, biosafety risk analysis and governance, science communication, business development and innovation management in the public, private and academic sectors. Prior to joining Biosafety South Africa, he worked at Stellenbosch University, the South African Sugarcane Research Institute and North-West University. Hennie was a founding member of two successful South African biotech start-ups and has served on numerous international and national bodies tasked with responsible research and innovation, biosafety and risk governance and capacity building, medicines control, science communication and sustainable biotech and agricultural innovation.

Dr Victor Konde

Victor Konde is a Scientific Affairs Officer with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). He holds a PhD in Biochemistry and is a Post-Doctoral alumnus of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is the founder of the African Technology Development Forum (ATDF, Geneva/Switzerland), the ATDF Entrepreneurship Hub (Lusaka, Zambia) and the Zambian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He is a Fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science, a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium (CDPC, Ireland) and the managing-editor of the ATDF Journal. He has founded and run a number of businesses and outfits for over 30 years. His current areas of interest and expertise include promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship policies and strategies, intellectual asset management, technology transfer, innovation and business funding models, especially for the youth.

Mr Ben Durham

Ben Durham is Chief Director: Bio-innovation at the Department of Science and Technology. His responsibilities include the implementation of the South African Bio-economy Strategy, launched in January 2014. He is overseeing implementation of the bio-innovation themes for agriculture, health, industry and environment, as well as indigenous knowledge systems with the ultimate purpose to develop and improve the efficiencies of the National System of Innovation to ensure socio-economic benefits to society. His specialisation areas include biotechnology sector development, technology commercialisation, innovation management, biosafety governance and regulation

Ms Lerato Mohalajeng

Lerato Mohalajeng is a lecturer in the School for Economic and Management Sciences of Northwest University. Her research focuses on business management and entrepreneurship. She has previously successfully executed a social media campaign for 5th Global Forum on Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship. Implemented an online marketing strategy for The World Bank Group-InfoDev. Developed content for the SA Innovation Summit publication called “Sparkbook”, which was subsequently nominated for a Loerie Award, and collaborated with Mail & Guardian to release a SA Innovation Summit supplement. She is passionate about Entrepreneurship and believes entrepreneurship is not only a mind set or behaviour, but a critical tool for social and economic transformation on the African continent. It is therefore her passion to find ways to develop “average Joe’s” into successful entrepreneurs that can compete in the global market.

Biotech innovation has the potential to transform many aspects of our lives, spanning the agriculture, health and manufacturing sectors. In fact, it has evolved into a distinct sector which is envisaged to contribute significantly to the food we eat, the products we use, the jobs we require and the businesses we develop – i.e. the bioeconomy. This potential has placed the development of national and internationally integrated bioeconomies at the top of many international agendas.Yet, it can be argued that Africa has not yet significantly reaped the benefits of current biotech innovations and, more importantly, that African countries are as a result not well placed to establish locally-relevant bioeconomies to benefit local societies. In contrast to the current, predominant privately driven and IP-protected biotech innovation models, an open biotech innovation model may offer several advantages to African countries, especially in context of publicly funded innovation and within national systems of innovation. Such a system will not only allow wider access and resource sharing, pooling of expertise, and value chain development, but also enable an integrated approach to ensure the sustainability, including health and environmental safety, as well as socio-political and techno-economic viability, of transnational innovation systems and their products.

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2019-03-01T13:50:49+02:00