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Bridging the gap between research and commercialisation

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Prof. Gordon Zide, VUT vice-chancellor and principal, kicked off the industry day by encouraging stakeholders to participate in the culture of innovation and commercialisation at VUT.

The Vaal University of Technology (VUT) Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park in partnership with VUT Research Directorate recently hosted an industry day for the electronic and automation industries. The aim of the event was to foster working relations between VUT academic staff/researchers and industry in order to improve the culture of innovation and commercialisation of research coming out of the university. The programme was brought about by the idea that a disconnect that exists between academia and industry. In academia, the concept of innovation is associated with adding to the body of knowledge of a topic, and generating publication. On the other hand, in industry, innovation is regarded as the process of translating an idea or invention into goods or services that create value and appeal to customers.

The university recognised that this disconnect and difference in understanding leads to missed opportunities in innovation and collaboration – particularly in an area striving for economic development. VUT therefore identified the need for a platform enabling industry and academia to share information, resources and ideas that will lead to better innovation in line with societal and consumer needs.

At the industry day, VUT research directorate Dr Simphiwe Nelana addressed the crowd, stating: “There is no way we can pursue innovation for our research if we do not do it at a design level. Things have changed. We want you to work with us, to take us through, to train us and engage with us. We have learnt something as the university, that there is a lack of integration between research and VUT’s definition of integrational research and provision. There seems to be a disconnect and we need to come together to work through it.”

Presentations from staff were followed by presentations from delegates and stakeholders such as the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO), the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), VUT HODs and various industry representatives. They all reiterated the importance of exploring potential collaborations and partnerships between VUT and industry, and elaborated on ways to foster relations, share ideas, challenges and opportunities around innovation and to give effect to the pull approach of commercialisation where innovation is demand and industry driven.

Contact Selina Rapulane, VUT Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park, Tel 016 930-5052, selinar@vut.ac.za

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