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Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)


Former President Kgalema Motlanthe signed the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) Bill into law, making way for the establishment of an agency to help stimulate scientific innovation in the country. Signed in Pretoria on 17 November 2008, the TIA Act has inspired the establishment of the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA). Download a copy of the Act here.

The agency will be built from existing initiatives such as the Biotechnology Regional Innovation Centres, the Innovation Fund, the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Strategy implementation unit and the Advanced Minerals Initiative.

The law provides for the powers and functions of the agency to:

  • Stimulate the development of technology-based products and services
  • Stimulate the development of technology-based enterprises - both public and private
  • Develop a significant technology base for the South African economy
  • Facilitate the development of human capital for innovation; and
  • Provide the primary bridge between the formal knowledge base and the real economy

The creation of the TIA is part of the Department of Science and Technology's (DST) Ten-Year Plan Innovation Plan, and will allow the Department to fulfill its mandate with regard to technology more effectively. The TIA concept is closely aligned with another government policy on intellectual property derived from publicly financed research and development.

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This information is intended for a UCT audience, is derived from attending TIA presentations and it does not represent official TIA information and details should be verified with TIA.

The Engergy Sector Strategy was presented to a Cape Town audience in November 2011 (see the Energy Sector Page) - their first of their sector strategies that had just been approved by their Exco. TIA also announced that they will be focussing more on industry interaction and needs analysis - this will be useful to feed back 'problems' to universities, especially from local Western Cape industry, so that research can be focused on providing solutions.

TIA are also striving to build up a picture of who the industrial players are in a particular sector - useful information for universities seeking to commercialise technologies. The Chamber of Commerce has requested TIA's assistance in setting up a "Technology Support Centre" that SMMEs can seek support from. TIA is also keen for universities to provide them with information, mapping out expertise within the universities and highlighting technology development in the sector so that this can be taken to the SMMEs.

A hurdle that is under review, is the need for universities to contribute 10 to 20% matching funding in projects that seek Technology Development Funding (which is the Fund most suitable for HEIs). Whilst in the past projects have been approved where this contribution has been made on an 'in kind' basis, TIA have now moved to wanting this in 'hard cash'. It is acknowledged that universities are unlikely to have this funding available and this is where the role of Angel investors is important. They can co-invest in these early-stage projects and effectively leverage their investment.

In terms of a return, TIA typically seeks a royalty, but they have realised that VCs are not keen on royalties, so if required, will convert this to an equity stake. Typically the funding 'cap' is R15 million (and minimum is R1.5 million), but where a number of HEIs and industry players are in a consortium funding of up to R60 million would be considered.

Criteria for award of funding include:

  • IP position - is it novel and inventive
  • Market attractiveness (need and problem that a solution is provided for)
  • Social and economic impact
  • Team and consortium (want commercial skills and also the involvement of the Technology Transfer team at an institution)
  • Alignment with TIA sectors
  • Technical viability of the proposal
  • Commercial viability and scalability (can one scale to meet demand quickly)
  • Prior investment, partnerships. Letters of Intent from potential customers provide concrete support for applications
  • Investment risk and potential financial return

In terms of processing an application:

  • The Investment Assessment Committee (IAC) review the application as the first step. There are two IACs: Industrial (Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, UCT and Mining) and Biotech (Health, Agro, Industrial Biotech).
  • If approved, due diligence is conducted
  • The IAC reviews the outcome of the due diligence
  • Presented to the ExCo who can make the funding decision if the project is
  • Presented to Board, where funding >R12 million.

There are incentives for companies and SMMEs to partner with universities for their technology development - so great opportunities for universities. This 'partnership' can be as loose as outsourcing the work to the university.

Details regarding the TIA Board can be found here. The Board is chaired by Dr Mamphele Ramphele, former VC of UCT, and Prof. Sue Harrison from UCT's Chemical Engineering Department is also a board member. A link to an Engineering News article (6 July 2009) can be found here. [link not working/outdated]