South African researchers encouraged to identify commercial potential of IP

Friday 25 January 2013, 4:20PM
By Shine Group

South African researchers have an opportunity to explore the commercial potential of their research and innovations at an Intellectual Property (IP) commercialisation workshop in Pretoria next month.  The goal of the workshop themed ‘Engineering for Mining and Agriculture’ is to see more emerging technologies reach the market by giving researchers and technology transfer professionals a greater understanding of the commercialisation process and by facilitating links with industry professionals and investors.

The workshop is being run by National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) (, an initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) together with WaikatoLink (  the technology transfer company of the University of Waikato in New Zealand, and locally based innovation management company Innocentrix (Pty) Ltd (

“We show researchers how they can share their IP with the world and create benefits for themselves and their institution while transferring important innovations to the marketplace.  By asking researchers to switch focus and think like a business for a few days they can improve their commercial awareness and skills enough to radically improve the chances of their technology being used,” says workshop facilitator Mr Nigel Slaughter, General Manager Commercial at WaikatoLink.

Participants use their own Intellectual Property and projects during the workshop to effectively develop skills that will help them get their protected intellectual property to market quickly. 

Commercialisation is not just the marketing of technologies, it’s about business opportunities says Mr Slaughter.  “There are often multiple opportunities for protected intellectual property.  By creating an awareness of the commercialisation process and needs of the market,  institutional technological innovation development participants will learn to identify and explore more valuable commercialisation opportunities.”

The workshop follows the successful ‘Animal Health and Nutrition’ Intellectual Property Commercialisation Workshop held in October 2012.

A participant at that workshop, Mr. Brian Mphahlele, Commercialisation Manager at CSIR Licensing and ventures, says, "WaikatoLink shared technology commercialisation best practice. The participants gained valuable insights with regards to evaluation of commercial merit of inventions, validation of market needs, quantification of the value of improved performance for such markets as well as how to package inventions into business opportunities.”

Dr Vuyisile Phehane, Senior Commercialization Manager at the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) adds, "I found the workshop empowering.  It highlighted the process of commercialisation and what background work needs to be done to understand if there is commercial potential in an opportunity.  This includes looking at the risks and barriers to entry to markets, how to find out what investors are looking for and how to pitch for investment.”
Participants work on creating value propositions for projects during the first two days of the workshop and gain valuable feedback from industry experts.  A key lesson includes how to communicate complex technological innovation ideas in terms of the business opportunity.  On the final day participants get the opportunity to pitch their project to potential industry investors. 

Mr Mphahlele says, "It's so important to articulate a bright idea in the lab in a way that is appealing to investors. Unless you can do that well you cannot raise investment to take the idea from the lab to the marketplace."

Duncan Mackintosh, Chief Executive of WaikatoLink says, “It’s a real honour for WaikatoLink to be facilitating these workshops.  NIPMO are pulling together experts around the world to establish a best practice commercialisation industry in South Africa to help develop the country's knowledge economy to boost economic competitiveness and job creation.  This workshop is a very practical way to transfer more IP to the market.” 

The Engineering for Mining and Agriculture IP commercialisation workshop will run from 12-14 February 2013 at the Irene Farm Country Lodge in Pretoria.  Researchers and technology transfer professionals interested in participating can contact Ms. Henra Mayer at Innocentrix or Ms. Maente Chandiyamba at NIPMO.