Innovation Support


An important distinction is normally made between invention and innovation. "Invention is the first occurrence of an idea for a new product or process, while innovation is the first attempt to carry it out into practice".1

The UCT Innovation Working Group, has defined innovation as "the creation and successful implementation of new ideas and inventions that make a real difference through the generation of tangible outcomes with social and/or financial value".

This definition of innovation seeks to include the notion of social innovation - an area that is gaining increasing traction. There is an increasing trend amongst graduates globally to pursue social entrepreneurship and social innovation rather than innovation with purely commercial goals.

RC&I assists with the commercialisation of technologies emanating from UCT’s research, moving them through the different Technology Readiness Levels until they can enter the market, either as a spin-off company, or via licensing.  This assistance spans: market assessment; fund raising; reviewing business plans; techno-economic analysis; as well as intellectual property due diligence.

Note that the funding information on these pages is intended for a UCT audience - UCT funding in particular cannot be accessed by non-UCT external parties.

Brief overviews of some of the funding available to support innovation are provided in the links on the left as well as the tools required to raise funding through the development of a Business Plan. UCT has a PreSeed Fund and access to the TIA Seed Fund, both of which provides funding to early-stage projects emanating from UCT research. This funding is often useful in order to better position and to mature the innovation to attract more substantial external funding.

Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) define the maturity of a project and its relative ‘distance’ from market adoption.  Many funders use TRLs to define the space within which they operate, or provide funding.

The figure below presents a UCT perspective of the technology development and commercialisation funding landscape in South Africa mapped according to stage of development.

Funding innovation landscape

Typically a number of different funding rounds are needed to move from an invention from proof of concept at laboratory scale through to a commercial product that can successfully enter the marketplace. As successful entrepreneur Kerryne Krause-Neufeld CEO of iSlices Innovations Pty (Ltd) said at the 2007 Bio2Biz Conference, being a CEO is all about accessing the next tranche of funding to move along the innovation chain.


The overviews provide links to the different funders' websites where more detailed information can be obtained. Also contact us at RC&I as there may well be other funding sources that we could recommend that you approach.

1 "Innovation: A Guide to the Literature", in Fagerberg, Jan, David C. Mowery and Richard R. Nelson: The Oxford Handbook of Innovations. Oxford University Press, 1-26.