by Annette Jansen Rensburg

Regional Innovation Forum

Free State launches innovation initiative

Stakeholders show solidarity during the RIF launch recently

A commitment to innovation and economic prosperity is at the heart of central South Africa. The Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT), together with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the University of the Free State (UFS), pledged their commitment to innovation and collaboration at the launch of the Regional Innovation Forum Free State (RIF), which took place at the CUT main campus in Bloemfontein on 9 May 2013.

The RIF aims to bring together stakeholders from various segments in the innovation value chain, in order to create strong systems of innovation by facilitating collaboration and supporting project and business development.

Mr Imraan Patel, deputy director-general of the DST, said: “The benefit of innovation has the potential to address issues of inequality, poverty and unemployment, by developing a unified vision and identifying areas of strength and capability within the region.”

The Free State Province has thriving agriculture, mining, catering and hospitality sectors, which qualify as initial focus areas for innovation through collaboration.

Professor Henk de Jager, deputy vice chancellor of Academics at CUT, said: “The mandate of the Regional Innovation Forum is 100% aligned with the CUT 2020 vision, of becoming an engaged university that focuses on producing quality social and technological innovations in socio-economic developments, which is why we are extremely excited about this initiative. ”

“This launch must be seen as an important outlet to encourage new ideas and promote constructive engagements between government, universities, business community and civil society on how to empower our communities and help build the economy of this region and South Africa as a whole,” concluded Prof. De Jager.

To make a sustainable improvement to local competitiveness and growth, a system that brings together local innovators to exploit the opportunities presented by innovation is required.

Prof. Corli Witthuhn, deputy vice chancellor of Research at UFS, said: “We look forward to collaborating closely with all players in the region and are eager to see what this initiative is going to mean for the region and for the country as a whole.”

The forum will ultimately work toward wealth creation within the region through the growth of the local economy.

Prof. Ryk Lues, head of the Department of Environmental Health at CUT and the project leader of RIF, said: “We believe that when you place all elements of the innovation value chain around one table, a spontaneous happening of projects will take place to the betterment of the region.”

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