Education: Mobilising Agents of Change

Adriana Marais, head of innovation at SAP and one of the volunteers to join the Mars One mission in 2025, addressed the delegates during the opening ceremony at the 2017 SABC Education Innovation Summit.

“I believe we can harness technology, to create a future that we can be proud of,” said Marais in her opening address at the 2017 SABC Education SA Innovation Summit which took place at the Cape Town Stadium last week. The Summit was an event that saw many influential business leaders, visionaries, and start-ups interacting to share their experiences, demonstrate new technology and discuss co-creating a better future for society.

Following the opening ceremony, breakaway sessions included panel discussions with business leaders, creative master classes, hackathons, inventors demonstrating their prototypes at the Inventors Garage, and start-ups pitching to a panel of potential investors. Start-ups and successful business leaders connected to share advice on how to take an idea to market successfully.

“Innovation happens when you ask ‘Why?’,” said Rob Stokes, Chairperson at Red and Yellow and speaker at the Summit. During his talk “Why Creative Thinking is the most important skill of the 21st Century”, he addressed how we access our inner creative genius to stay ahead of automation and even artificial intelligence.

“What toolkit does one require to start a business?” asked Kieno Kammies during a CEO panel discussion. “One thing that struck me to be essential is to conquer fear, not just conquer it, banish it so that it does not exist; in this way you are just completely focused on your vision,” answered Hannes van Rensburg, founder of Fundamo, the leading supplier of mobile banking and payment solutions.

The jam-packed event ended off with the announcement of winners of the various competitions at the event:

· Winner of the Chivas Regal Venture Pitching Den was Benji Coetzee. Her start-up company EmptyTrips will be off to compete for a US$ 1 million investment prize at the 2018 Startup World Cup grand finale in Silicon Valley. EmptyTrips uses smart algorithms to allow empty transport vehicles on return trips to be used for cargo transport at a lower cost.
· The Santam Hackathon, a 48-hour hackathon to find solutions to some of South Africa’s most pressing safety challenges, awarded a first prize of R20 000, and incubation support from idea to launch, to MoreEyes. The MoreEyes team proposed using biometric data to track employee and retail visitor behaviour (including movement patterns, body temperature and facial recognition) to help predict and prevent robberies.
· The Inventors Garage, an opportunity for inventors to exhibit their prototypes, awarded a cash prize of R10 000, as well as R15 000 in services from Adams and Adams, to the winner: James van der Walt with SolarTurtle. The SolarTurtle is an ultra-secure solar energy solution for off-grid use in high-crime areas.

This year’s Summit eclipsed the success of previous years by being a catalyst of real social change. Speakers at this year’s event committed to a change that they will enact and give feedback on over the course of a year, helping to create a greater impact on the economic ecosystem. “The commitment varied from general collaboration in strengthening the innovation and start-up eco system in South Africa, to specific commitments like that of delegate Hammilton Mphidi that committed to creating start-up schools in communities to teach future skills,” explains Audrey Verhaeghe, Chairperson of the Summit. “In his presentation, Pieter De Villiers reminded people that you do not have to be a billionaire to give back: offer your time and effort. Commitments touched on creation, implementation and enablement of new ideas, capacity building, riding the wave of big data and disrupting industries. Thinking big and scaling of businesses from Africa to the World was a golden thread at the Summit.”

“We are incredibly excited about what the year ahead will bring in terms of measurable societal impact,” Verhaeghe concludes. “It is events like these that act as an important source of inspiration for many to take a great idea and turn it into something that will change the world.”