The GCIP-SA was incorporated into the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) as from January 2018, after four years as a donor-funded project. The programme launched in South Africa in 2014 and has been jointly implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Technology Agency (TIA), with funding by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). US based Cleantech Open was the main knowledge partner of the global programme. The GCIP-SA was followed by the introduction of sister projects in seven other developing countries. Since its inception, the South African programme has worked with entrepreneurial teams from all nine provinces, with 102 cleantech entrepreneurs directly supported through the Business Accelerator process.
TIA CEO Barlow Manilal describes the project as the perfect case study of a successful international partnership, combining local and international expertise in support of the country’s national priorities. He says that it is in the principle doing things differently and utilising challenges as opportunities to innovate for a sustainable future that TIA’s association with UNIDO in the implementation of the GCIP-SA “reflects a meeting of minds and an absolute alignment of purpose.”
TIA’s mandate is to use South Africa’s science and technology base to develop new industries, create sustainable jobs and help diversify the economy away from commodity exports towards knowledge-based industries equipped to address modern global challenges. “The premise is simple: successful innovations, innovators and entrepreneurs create industries, jobs, and contribute to better living conditions, a sustainable environment and economic growth.”
UNIDO Representative and Head of South Africa Regional Office Khaled El Mekwad, explains that the emphasis on the growing importance of cleantech innovations required to reduce carbon intensity in buildings and construction processes is in line with Sustainable Development Goal 9 (Innovation, Industry and Infrastructure) as well as SDGs 6, 7, 11, 12 (Water, Energy, Sustainable Cities, and Cleaner Production). “Furthermore, market retention of cleantech entrepreneurs is a necessity to secure their inclusion in the 4th Industrial Revolution. By working in close co-operation with the government, UNIDO is committed to help in the development of green businesses across South Africa, and engage them towards the sustainable management of natural resources.”
By fostering clean technology solutions and innovative entrepreneurs, the GCIP-SA supports delivery on the country’s international commitments to reduce carbon emissions. The training and mentorship programme for participating innovators and entrepreneurs is also in line with the National Development Plan’s (NDP2030) commitment to higher levels of skills and innovation capacity needed to move to a low-carbon economy.
Speaking at the 2017 GCIP-SA gala and awards event, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said that the GCIP-SA’s highly successful programmatic approach accelerates commercial opportunities and creates platforms for participants to promote their product offerings and raise funding. “Through its ongoing support of entrepreneurs and innovation in the clean technology space, the Programme will contribute to strengthening the resilience of the complex South African entrepreneurial economy to operate within the global market, and will have measurable positive economic and social benefits for the country,” she said.
A key deliverable has been to build capacity in the country to continue with the project at the end of the donor-funded period. In addition to capacitating entrepreneurs, a core of dedicated volunteer mentors and judging panelists were trained over the past four years to support the participants in the validation and development of their business models. Partnerships were established with private and public institutions to provide expert advice in key areas such as intellectual property protection, product development and financing, while specialist mentors are being trained to start taking over from international experts as from 2018.
El Mekwad concludes: “UNIDO congratulates TIA on the good execution of the GCIP-SA project over four years, during which a strong sense of national ownership was developed through an active contribution by skillful South African human resources and efficient management of the project funds.”