Innovation Summit

Design Institute offers assistance to innovators at the Innovation Summit

The 2015 SA Innovation Summit, with the theme Innovation Intelligence, takes place at the Cape Town Stadium from 26 to 29 August. The summit has two competitions for inventors, entrepreneurs and companies where finalists will be presented at the Market on the Edge 27 – 29 August. There are R100 000 in cash prizes available for the winners.

Delegates registering for the summit will share in conversations about key challenges faced by entrepreneurs, developers, researchers, thought leaders, inventors and investors  and will hear speakers propose inventive solutions and offer powerful tools to overcome these challenges. 

The SABS Design Institute will play a role at the summit’s Market on the Edge, an enterprise matchmaking opportunity where entrepreneurs will be brought together with technology providers, funders and government agencies. Ten participants who are deemed to have potential but who could do with design support will be identified and will be offered the opportunity to go through the Design Institute’s Go-to-Hub situated within the Design & Innovation Entrepreneurship Centre. The Centre offers the services of experts, be they academics, business experts or designers, offering advice on all aspects of ideas development.

The creation of the Design & Innovation Entrepreneurship Centre has been part of the Design Institute’s mandate that includes policy-making, creating partnerships, supporting SMMEs and brainstorming on how to approach design promotion.

For more on the Innovation Summit, go to



Innovation as a key driver in economic growth and prosperity

The Bloomberg Innovation Index recognises the key role that innovation plays as a driver of economic growth and prosperity. So what can we read into the fact that this year South Korea tops the list of the world’s 50 most innovative countries, and South Africa ranks second last at 49th, just above Morocco, but behind Tunisia, when it comes to African countries?

 The Index focuses on six tangible activities that contribute to innovation. These are research and development, manufacturing, hi-tech companies, post-secondary education, research personnel, and patents. Bloomberg uses data from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the United States Patent and Trademark Office, The OECD and UNESCO to compile the ranking. If it’s true that innovation is the driver of economic change, governments and businesses should stimulate change through innovation policies and strategies and show their commitment by financial support. One example is the way in which South Korea’s Samsung has committed in excess of $14 billion towards research and development in the past year.

One of the reasons why South Korea also tops the list of innovative countries could be because this country has invested heavily in design and design policies. After the end of the Korean War and the devastation it caused to this country in the 1950s, a concerted effort was made to change South Korea’s fortunes and to use design as a key driver. Since then, brands such as LG Electronics Inc., Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, Helio and Kia have been redefining South Korea’s international image in terms of its design capabilities. In addition, Seoul was the World Design Capital in 2010. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon in his acceptance speech declared, “design is a growth driver of the Seoul economy. We have surprised the world with the Miracle of the Han River and advancements in the IT sector. Now we would like to bring global attention to Seoul with strong design.” On all accounts, this objective was reached in the 2010 and beyond.

In terms of government commitment, the Korea Institute of Design Promotion (KIDP) was established by the Korean government in 1970 to promote the design industry and expand export. As a national government design organisation, KIDP promotes Korea’s mid- to long-term design policies and engages in various exchange programmes with countries around the globe. To meet the demands of the digital design era of the 21st century, KIDP particularly focuses on leading Korea’s economic development and enhancing the quality of life by promoting cutting-edge design industry. 

So what does this mean for South Africa? Would it be possible to put the positive outcomes that flowed from Cape Town’s design-capital status in 2014 to good use and to build a design approach that would benefit the country in the long run? Right now the SABS Design Institute is striving to coordinate different design strategies and is promoting the idea of a national direction that is supported by government and business to benefit the country’s economy and growth in the long run. Who knows, a future Bloomberg Innovation Index might see South Africa moving up the list once a concerted effort has been made to root innovation (and design that goes hand-in-hand with it) as a key driver of the economy.



Keep your eye on these innovators

They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this dictum also applies to the world of innovation and design. The term innovation can be defined as something original and more effective and, as a consequence, new, that breaks into the market or society. Breaking into the market is key for an innovation to be deemed successful. Three innovators, who have been assisted by the Design Institute to break into the market, share their successes.

A toy called Tugo

Abel Chetty is an entrepreneur from Gauteng with an accounting qualification. In 2012 Abel joined the Design Institute’s programme with the intention of improving a construction toy for children. 

Tugo is a revolutionary new construction toy that combines the concepts of play and education in one environment to develop lateral thinking, concentration, gross and fine motor coordination, as well as cognitive skills in children at early stages. The versatile building pieces allow children to build many everyday forms such as cars, trucks, bridges, houses, tables, chairs, and much more. Tugo also promotes recycling by facilitating the use of cardboard. Furthermore, the components are made entirely from non-toxic, recyclable materials. 

 Abel came to the Design Institute to improve the configuration of his product and to improve its marketing and branding. By applying the design process, a new retail strategy was defined. An improved brand and marketing strategy was designed to assist the SMME to increase sales. In addition to unlocking more opportunities, the design process ensured the success of closing a R4 million deal with a reputable retailer, as well as a partnership agreement with a packaging company. Abel has been actively trading online and in retail stores.

High-end furniture with a South African touch

Siyanda Mbele is an entrepreneur from Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, with a Bachelor’s degree in Interior design.  In 2014 Siyanda joined the Design Institute’s programme with a product that has not sold any units, despite having previously displayed at the Design Indaba Expo. Siyanda needed assistance in redesigning his product to improve his business. 

The business creates hand-painted furniture inspired by the uniqueness of South African cultures. The business model is to create high-end furniture pieces for individuals with a love for design and African aesthetics.  Siyanda’s designs provide an unexpectedly modern variation of African furniture and incorporate South African cultural references in the design. His differentiation is using Ndebele, Venda and Zulu patterns in the product which interpreted in a novel aesthetic design which also influences the shape of the legs. 

Siyanda came to the Design Institute with a business model that was not sustainable which created an unprofitable product and poor ability to upscale. By applying the design process, a new retail strategy was defined to assist the SMME to improve his business model and increase sales. In addition, his product was redesigned with the appropriate manufacturing cost and with sustainable mass production construction.

Siyanda has been featured at various platforms such as Design Indaba Expo, Mail and Guardian, article in Cool hunting and linked to the Foschini Group. He is currently in negotiation with Mr Price Home.

Macadamia nuts in a new guise

Thabo Mooketsi is an entrepreneur from Soweto in Johannesburg. He is the owner of Lentibex (Pty) Ltd. In 2013, Thabo joined the Design Institute’s programme with a product using macadamia nuts. 

Amacwa is one of the products that are produced by Lentibex (Pty) Ltd. The products are all made using macadamia nuts. Amacwa has a range of products including nuts oil and nuts butter. 

Thabo came to the Design Institute with a product that was not tested and properly packaged for the market. The institute assisted him in ensuring that proper processes were followed in testing his products, as well as ensuring his business case was clearly defined, marketing, branding and packaging improved. By applying the design process, a new retail strategy was defined to assist the SMME to increase sales. In addition to unlocking more revenue, the downstream effect on the main supplier of the raw product was the creation of more job opportunities to meet the new demand. 

Amacwa products are now available in four Spar supermarkets and Thabo is in a process of getting the product to sell at Dischem and Pick n Pay.

These three case studies prove that applying the design process to existing products could unlock their potential and in doing so, support innovators to bridge that often illusive gap of breaking into the market.


Design landscape

Just imagine – an Ideas Hub for South Africa with a task force behind it

Call it an idea, a hunch, a notion. It’s that belief that the clever invention that popped into your head might actually become a fully-fledged product that can make you an instant millionaire and add to the country’s economy by creating jobs and increasing exports. Your idea or innovation might be just that, an idea, or you may have done some research, drawn up plans or even built a prototype. The problem is - where to go from here?

Well, there are innovators who have received positive design input for their bright ideas, like Shalton charging electronic devices through radio waves, Luthendo’s range of medicinal products based on an ancient plant, Siyanda with culturally-inspired furniture and Zuko with a wrist band alerting the hearing impaired. All of these innovators, and many more like them, have one thing in common. They have joined forces with the Design Institute, situated within the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), to help them take their ideas forward. Think of the Design Institute and its people as a task force that is geared to take your idea to the next level. We have employed the big guns to nurture, analyse, grow and shape ideas to fit the application at hand. 

The Design Institute is the official body that has the job of developing South Africa’s design capability and has been doing so for more than 40 years, albeit in an evolving way.  By creating a link between innovators, business, government, industry and funders, the Institute is able to help innovators to develop globally competitive products and services that can create income and employment.  

The Design Institute is geared towards linking design, innovation and entrepreneurship to unlock new channels of economic growth that is not dependent on a services economy, but relies on new products and services that can add to industrialisation.

South Africa’s vision of an equitable society depends on sustainable long-term development that involves higher economic growth, a lively export market and labour-intensive, value-adding economic activity in the production sectors, led by manufacturing.  Manufacturing plays a critical role in economic development and design should be seen as the fizz that is added to the manufacturing pop. The benefits of adding design to the manufacturing process should be non-negotiable. Good design can bring down manufacturing costs, it makes products more desirable, it adds to the competitiveness of products in a global marketplace, it streamlines processes and creates systems that eases the manufacturing process. 

In the end, it boils down to taking your idea and moving it forward with the best team by your side. Well-designed products, manufactured locally, would be able to create jobs, increase exports, build infrastructure and will eventually lead to economic growth that the country so desperately needs at the moment.