KZN tech hubs to boost innovation, job creation in province
22 March 2018 | Web Article Number: ME20189054
Most graduates are leaving universities and other tertiary institutions with plenty of theoretical knowledge, but unable to innovate or build a business, often leaving them unemployable in an increasingly crowded jobs market.
That was the message from KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Finance Belinda Scott, speaking at a recent KZN Techno Hubs Opportunity Expo at the Dube Tradeport.
The aim of event was to introduce the province’s four new technology and innovation hubs to potential investors and link them up to entrepreneurs, property developers, academics, business leaders and other high-profile stakeholders.
The hubs are located in strategic locations across the province - in the Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone (RBIDZ), Port Shepstone (Ray Nkonyeni Municipality), Newcastle (Newcastle Municipality) and Pietermaritzburg (Msunduzi Municipality).
“These hubs will go a long way to closing the gap between theoretical and practical knowledge. Each of them, operating in four distinct geographical areas and focusing on different areas of expertise, will give talented young people the basis for real jobs in the workforce and, possibly, position them as future employers,” Scott said.
KwaZulu-Natal has for the past three years been ramping up its capabilities in the technology and innovation sphere with the development of the Techno Hubs, a project which the provincial government, led by the KZN Treasury, adopted as part of its Provincial Growth Development Plan.
The aims of the initiative, which was identified as a catalytic project by the office of the provincial premier, are to promote the knowledge economy, drive socio-economic development and increase competitiveness.
Grant funding of R120 million from the European Union, channelled through the National Treasury to KZN Treasury, helped kickstart the project.
Head of Department in the KZN Treasury Simiso Magagula said the hubs would provide a much-needed catalyst for economic growth and he was confident that investors will “embrace this platform”.
“That level of consciousness about how important it is to be innovative in everything you do will go a long way to assisting the province to achieve its economic growth goals,” said Magagula,
The expo also provided potential investors with information about the wide range of incentives the various municipalities and the RBIDZ are offering for setting up their businesses in one of the hub locations.
The main aim is the commercialisation of innovative ideas through which products, processes, strategies and services are formulated to create jobs and wealth.
Aligned with this objective is to provide an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to pursue their innovative business concepts and progress from start-ups to being sustainable and successful entities.
“If we can have one or two products that are game changers out in the market having used the platform of the Techno Hubs, I will be the happiest man,“ Magagula said.
Neli Shezi, Deputy Director General for Fiscal Resource Management at the KZN Treasury, echoed his remarks, saying “it will be interesting to see new ideas and new entrants that came in for incubation who have survived for the period and who have actually established a sustainable business. That would be the ultimate goal”.