Innovation Hub’s Biopark to open in third quarter

Phase 1 of the Innovation Hub’s Biopark@Gauteng is already filled to capacity, says Innovation Hub research, development and innovation GM Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela.

The ten companies in Phase 1 of the Life Sciences Enterprise project will be able to move into the park in the third quarter of this year.

Construction work on the office and manufacturing space, located at the Innovation Hub, in Tshwane, is almost complete.

Phase 1 will also house the Innovation Hub’s Climate Innovation Centre (CIC), which accommodates an additional 20, precommercial companies.

The aim of the Biopark is to accelerate the commercialisation of biotechnology in South Africa, in support of the Department of Science and Technology’s bio-economy strategy, as well as to address key aspects of the Gauteng Innovation and Knowledge Economy Strategy, says Semete-Makokotlela.

“Biotechnology can only contribute to the country’s gross domestic product if innovations stemming from the sector can be commercialised.”

Semete-Makokotlela says the Biopark was conceptualised by Innovation Hub CEO McLean Sibanda during the 2011/12 financial year.

“The Innovation Hub was previously very much focused on information and communication technology, and the construction of the Biopark and the establishment of the CIC signal an expansion into the bio- and green economy sectors,” says Semete-Makokotlela.

“Barriers to entry in these sectors tend to include access to infrastructure, such as manufacturing facilities, laboratories and equipment that can service small and medium biotechnology enterprises. Universities are more focused on research and development, and not commercialisation. Hence, the new development at the Innovation Hub will significantly contribute towards the acceleration of small- and medium biotechnology enterprises.

“Our main intent is to create an enabling environment for the growth and commercialisation of biotechnology innovations. We hope the park creates an ecosystem where like-minded people can collaborate.”

Once the feasibility study and the business plan on the Biopark, funded by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, were complete, the Innovation Hub was left with the task to source funding for the project.

The initial plan was to secure R300-million, but the tepid economic climate saw the hub scale down its ambitions, while also dividing its development plan into phases.

The Gauteng Growth and Development Agency and the Department of Trade and Industry provided funding for Phase 1 and some development aspects of phase 2, with R70-million required for the development of both phases of the project.

Phase 1’s Life Sciences Enterprise Project will house companies in the agroprocessing, medical devices and diagnostics industries.

The CIC, in turn, is focused on the green economy, and specifically on “innovative, new technologies,” explains Semete-Makokotlela.

“So, yes, it can be solar panels, but then we want a new, innovative manufacturing technique.”

“We provide office and manufacturing space,” she adds. “The rental rates are highly subsidised.”

The companies housed within the Biopark and the CIC also receive a mentor, as well as help to access the market and to develop an intellectual property strategy.

The hub has partnered with eGoLiBio to assist with these matters. eGoLiBio serves as a partner incubator for the commercialisation of bioscience products.

Semete-Makokotlela expects construction on Phase 2 of the Biopark  to start early next year.

The second phase will house companies in the ‘cosmeceutical’ and biopharmaceutical industries.

Phase 1 has 800 m2 office space, and 500 m2 manufacturing space. Phase 2 will be 1 600 m2 in size.

Story by: Irma Venter, From Creamer Media’s Engineering News at