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CSIR launches a commercialisation enterprise to drive a diverse range IP to market

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THE Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has officially launched a commercialisation enterprise, named CSIR C3 (pronounced as CSIR C-Cubed) to accelerate the pace and increase the scale of the commercialisation of its technologies and intellectual property (IP).

A fully owned CSIR company, CSIR C3 will have dedicated capacity to drive all aspects of technology commercialisation, providing adequate financial resources along the technology de-risking process through to commercialisation. The standalone enterprise will hold all CSIR IP and act as an incubator for start-up enterprises underpinned by strong technical and non-financial support. It will enable the commercialisation of CSIR IP through the development of a network of investors and entrepreneurs.

In keeping with the CSIR’s industrialisation strategy and its vision, the initiative is intended to enhance the organisation’s efforts to drive industrialisation to grow the South African economy with the aim to catalyse the re-industrialisation of South Africa by establishing new technology-based enterprises. The commercialisation enterprise will collaborate closely with investors, entrepreneurs and innovators to achieve this objective.

Speaking at the launch event in Sandton, CSIR board chairperson Vuyani Jarana said the CSIR developed many technologies and products that are ready to be de-risked, scaled up, and taken to the market.

“The establishment of CSIR C3 is an important turning point for the CSIR. As an excellent research development and innovation organisation, for close to 80 years, the CSIR has sustained a track record of contributing to industrial development through the development of technologies that improve the performance and competitiveness of existing industrial products, processes and services. Some of these technologies require funding to take the final step towards commercialisation, while others are ready to be taken up by the market.”

To this end, the CSIR has raised R100 million as an initial investment into the commercialisation enterprise to de-risk CSIR technologies to improve market readiness. During the launch, about 18 of the CSIR’s top technologies ranging from health, logistics, and earth observation in support of industry, to defence and security were unveiled to various stakeholders and potential investors.

CSIR chief executive officer Dr Thulani Dlamini said the commercialisation enterprise will seize the opportunity to monetise the organisation’s IP at a greater scale and pace to achieve impact.

“The decision to establish a standalone special-purpose technology commercialisation company was driven by the necessity to work with industry and to accelerate the commercialisation of the intellectual property that the organisation generates. Through this initiative, we will collaborate with various partners to create innovation-based companies, to support the reindustrialisation of our economy,” said Dlamini.

Dlamini added that the entity will unlock new opportunities for the CSIR and industry partners to collaborate in developing and commercialising technologies in South Africa and abroad.

“The CSIR technology commercialisation enterprise will be creating value for different stakeholders in a multi-faceted way, with the main aim of contributing to the economic growth of South Africa, and to the number of direct and indirect jobs created in industry – in keeping with the national imperatives and, notably, the Decadal Plan on Science, Technology and Innovation,” said Dlamini.

The model and approach of CSIR C3 have been informed by global best practices and draw on valuable lessons learnt. This model will not operate in isolation and is set to address some CSIR commercialisation challenges as well as address South Africa’s industrialisation challenges. The CSIR has contributed significantly to South Africa’s research and development, performing directed research in support of industry and a capable state, and resolving societal challenges across many disciplines and many sectors.

Some of the first technologies that are available for commercial uptake that were displayed to private sector players, investors, and government stakeholders at the event in Sandton included formulations for biodegradable plastic; a biomanufacturing process for lactic acid from sugar by-products; ‘green’ cement technologies; a kit for the early detection of kidney injury; a smartphone-based diagnostic tool to detect diseases; a gunshot detection camera; and a tool that forecasts the motion of moored ships in a port.

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