The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA)-funded KZN Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) recently hosted its second Durban Spark Innovation breakfast featuring UKZN’s A-rated scientist Professor Fernando Albericio as the keynote speaker.
The breakfast series of presentations, held in partnership with Stanford University in the United States, is aimed at fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in Durban.
Leading bioinformatician and Director of UKZN’s KRISP, Professor Tulio de Oliveira, is passionate about creating a new university that is business orientated, undertaking innovative research and translating it for the benefit of society through entrepreneurship and commercialisation. ‘The Durban SPARK Innovation Breakfast meeting aims to ensure that Durban is in a position to seize opportunities and manage the challenges of rapid advances in technology, such as artificial intelligence, robotics and biotechnology,’ said de Oliveira.
Albericio, who is passionate about the transfer of scientific knowledge into society, is a research professor in UKZN’s School of Chemistry and Physics and served as general director of Spain’s successful Barcelona Science Park from 2005 to 2012. The park, which currently hosts more than 40 companies, offers researchers, entrepreneurs and society in general a setting equipped with powerful research support services, research staff, specialised technicians and agents to promote knowledge and technology transfer pointing to the creation of new companies.
In the hope of creating a new university, Albericio commented that a Durban model was possible if the focus was on creating potential synergies. ‘We must function within an entrepreneurial culture, and share laboratories with the private sector and ensure that the transfer of science is key.’ He also advised scientists and clinicians in the audience to focus on globalisation with a local flavour.
In order to advance innovation and commercialisation in Durban, KRISP and UKZN partnered with the SPARK Global Programme at Stanford University, which is one of the most successful innovation programmes in Silicon Valley in the United States with a staggering 62% of transfer of technology to commercial products.
‘We are delighted to have started this innovation programme with some of the top universities in the world,’ said de Oliviera. ‘We are also very enthusiastic about working with the private sector. The public may not be fully aware but UKZN is ranked as one of the top research universities in South Africa with some of the leading world experts on HIV, TB, chemistry and quantum computing on its academic staff. Durban entrepreneurship and business orientation culture provides a perfect combination to transfer scientific developments to commercial products.’
The Durban Spark Innovation breakfasts are open meetings and the participation of the private sector, government and civil society is encouraged. Meetings run from 07h30 to 08h30 on the first Wednesday of every month, with breakfast provided before and after the meeting. They are held in the K-RITH Tower Building on the Medical School campus at 719 Umbilo Road in Durban.
Words: MaryAnn Francis