Twenty small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and young innovators will be given the opportunity to showcase their new development or invention for the power and water industry at the innovation hub that will be taking place during the upcoming African Utility Week, in Cape Town from May 17 to 19.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship form the lifeblood of any economy and the energy and water sectors need this more than ever and our innovation hub will gather the brightest minds and ideas, and partner them with the right people to take their projects out into the world where they can make a real difference,” says African Utility Week event director Evan Schiff.
He highlights that the event will provide innovators the opportunity to meet with seasoned industry experts and heavyweights as well as industry incubators who can help facilitate the growth of entrepreneurship in the utilities’ supply industry. The winners will each receive a free exhibition stand at African Utility Week to showcase their developments or inventions through live presentations.
Renewable-energy nonfinancial assistance provider Seda Atlantis Renewable Energy Business Incubator GM Helmut Hertzog notes that developing new innovation is often associated with the development of new hardware and equipment technology, however, he points out that this is often extremely expensive.
“In my view, the key question is why do so few South Africans adopt simple technologies like domestic solar water heating to start with? Why do so many rural communities shun clean off-grid power solutions? Perhaps the single biggest innovation required is to find ways for the consumer market to actually adopt and desire simple proven technologies,” he says.
One example of a company that has taken up this challenge is biofuel producer Eco-fuel Africa, which trains marginalised farmers to carbonise locally sourced biomass waste into a product called char, using simple, locally made kilns. Since 2010, the company has grown to employ 40 people and has established a network of 2 300 micro-retailers and 3 500 farmers who use their kilns. “Our goal is to take our clean cooking fuel to every energy poor household in Uganda by 2020 and to every country in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030,” says CEO Sanga Moses.