Innovation Network Established For The Western Cape

Cost savings of R1.45-million, 23.3 tonnes of industrial waste diverted from landfill, additional sales to the value of R2.09 million and energy savings of 1 820MWh per annum, count among the outcomes of the Western Cape Industrial Symbiosis Programme (WISP).The programme owns no resources, other than human capital, as it serves only to link firms within its extensive manufacturing industry network so that waste (energy, water or materials) from one company becomes the resources of another.

WISP’s success was profiled alongside three other cases that illustrated the value of innovation partnerships at the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership (EDP’s) first Partnership Exchange Lab in support of a regional innovation network. The one-day workshop was held on 27 March 2014 and followed widespread stakeholder engagement by the EDP.

EDP CEO, Andrew Boraine, says of the day: “Our research and today’s discussions prove that numerous centres of excellence and powerful networks, best practices, knowledge and data exist within the innovation sector, albeit in silos. The problem is that it’s not freely shared across our regional landscape to help fast-track innovation for increased economic growth.”

Innovation teams, hubs and networks – globally acknowledged as a major force in economic advancement – are most productive when integrated into a regional system. Such a system drives collaboration and execution across geographies and sectors, much as WISP does for sustainable development in the manufacturing sector. At system-level, partnerships the EDP will establish include: transversal (across silos, disciplines, departments and industries); inter-governmental (across tiers, public entities and agencies); cross-boundary (connecting ‘leading’ and ‘lagging’ communities); and cross-sector (linking public, private, labour, civil society and knowledge institutions).

Boraine adds: “The workshop enjoyed senior representation from entrepreneurs, business support and funding organisations, academic institutions, researchers, technology transfer office, SMEs, industry bodies and all three tiers of government. Equally encouraging was the broad-based consensus and eagerness to participate in the system we proposed. The EDP’s core focus has always been on building and strengthening partnerships to foster sustainable, inclusive economic growth. To this end, a small steering group has defined the next steps required for this regional innovation network to succeed.

The outcomes defined by the regional innovation network are that it will:
1. Actively facilitate information & knowledge generation and sharing;
2. Promote institutional and system reform;
3. Shift mindsets on the sharing of information;
4. Enable networking and relationship building;
5. Consistently work to strengthen innovation support services.

“Our action plan for achieving these outcomes will be available by end-April and will include details on the creation of our ‘network of networks’ that will underpin all initiatives driven by the new system,” concluded Boraine.