Five health and bio-tech innovators in the Western Cape have been provided with grants of up to R500,000 each during the second round of the Design Innovation Seed Fund (DISF2).

The five entrepreneurs are amongst seven entrepreneurs who have developed cutting-edge innovations which could lead to major advancements in the region’s health and bio-tech, and manufacturing sectors.

The DISF is a project of the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) with investment and management funds respectively provided by the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

The first round of funding resulted in a total of R6.5 million being awarded to develop 12 innovative ideas in the province.

Executive Director of the CCDI, Erica Elk, said that the DISF2 has a specific focus on assisting ground-breaking South African-developed designs and ideas in four priority areas.

“After a successful first round, where we learnt lots of valuable lessons, we decided that in our second round of funding we didn’t want to just support innovation for its own sake; but rather to align with national and provincial priority sectors that will support economic growth,” said Elk.

“We had some incredible applications, 57 in total, and we narrowed this down through a thorough due diligence process, to a shortlist of those with the best potential. The sectors this round of the DISF focused on are all key sectors that can make a tremendous difference, not just to our economy and job creation, but also to people’s lives in terms of the medical devices being funded,” continued Elk.

Applicants to the DISF needed to show enough evidence of innovation in design, technology and/or its application; market appetite or sufficient evidence of market potential or competitive advantage; and a management team able to drive the process.

The five innovations selected for funding are:

  • The SmartBlade developed by Nick Levin and Dr Caroline Corbett uses smartphone technology to provide cost-effective guided video laryngoscopy.
  • MicroPatch is an HIV testing solution designed to make rapid testing easier and more accessible. All components of the test, including the blood collection mechanism and buffer delivery to the test sample, are integrated and contained in one device. This reduces the chance of user error and increases accuracy.
  • An innovative medical device called OptiShunt which offers the first real hope for definitive prevention of blindness caused by glaucoma.
  • Suction Dissector, a new type of medical dissecting tool for blunt dissection of soft tissue with a novel dissection feature that provides an advantage over competitor devices.
  • DNABurn by Signal Biotechnology, has identified a novel approach to developing nutritional products, and has applied this approach to developing a stimulant free weight loss supplement. The product answers the need for a safe, natural, effective and evidence based supplement.

Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, said investing in innovators was one of the best ways to grow the economy.

“We believe that one of the best ways to grow our economy is to invest in our innovators. Far too many young businesses, and the jobs that would come with them, fall to the wayside due to a lack of finance,” said Winde.

“We launched this fund three years ago, in collaboration with like-minded partners, to give entrepreneurs from our region the kick-start they need to develop their ideas into reality,” concluded Winde.

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