Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Innovation Hub targets development of technology of businesses at micro level

The Botswana Innovation Hub (BIH) has established First Steps Venture Centre (FSVC), a technology entrepreneurship development programme to support entrepreneurship and innovation through technology transfer.

FSVC identifies, develops and nurtures viable technology oriented start-up businesses with a potential to grow locally and into international markets.

In an interview with The Sunday Standard, BIH Director Marketing and Registration, Dr Geoffrey Seleka, said that FSVC shall be a critical component on the national innovation system and landscape. He pointed out that currently, governments’ efforts to support start-up companies has been focused on limited sectors e.g. agricultural sector companies are supported through schemes like young farmers’ fund-CEDA, Ministry of Youth and Culture is also providing similar support.

“The technology sphere there is very little support for start-up companies even though there is a potential for diversifying the economy through new ventures that embrace locally relevant technology and technical support,” said Seleka.

On the objectives of FSVC, Seleka stated that it is to promote the development of technology and innovation at micro level, to promote technology entrepreneurship as well as to provide a platform for commercialization of technology. He added that FVC aims at closing the innovation gap and also to expose local technology businesses to international markets and network.

He emphasized that the FSVC programme is intended for youth and members of the general public with innovative ideas that have a potential for business locally and internationally in the BIH areas of focus. Seleka stated that BIH focus areas are ICT, Biotechnology, Mining Technologies and Clean Technologies.

“There is a very strong emphasis for applicants to the programme to have towards viable business plans; tenancy shall be availed only when financial sustainability has been determined. FSVC is open to a wide range of technology oriented ventures, including those that may not necessarily directly fall within the BIH sector focus areas as well as start-ups coming from abroad,” he stated.

Seleka also pointed out that for BIH to become a market leading destination for innovative businesses, they need to let foreign firms know they can accelerate their growth. He added that the FSVC’s “Soft Landing” services lets foreign firms know that BIH, has setup specialized programs and or facilities for helping companies break into new markets.

“We have received a significant enquiry about the programme, which we believe have indicated huge interest from Batswana technology entrepreneurs. We will be sending call for proposals very soon and that’s when we can now confidently say that Batswana have welcomed this programme,” he said.

Seleka observed that the government of Botswana has made significant investment in undersea cables connecting to the outside world as a means to address infrastructure challenges in ICT. He said other investment has gone into creating training and scholarship opportunities in ICT related disciplines at tertiary level. He added that the current ICT industry is, however, still mostly made up of resellers of packaged hardware products from the major multi-national companies.

“This presents an opportunity for BIH to act as a catalyst in the development of the industry specifically to develop innovative local content, skills, and job creation as part of the national ICT development strategy and e-government,” said Seleka.

On the criteria FSVC uses to identify technological start-up businesses, Seleka revealed that one should be a motivated entrepreneur with a drive, scalable technology oriented business aligned to the BIH priority sectors such as ICT, biotechnology, mining technologies and clean technologies. He said other qualities are a business with a clear validated market locally and or globally, and must have a development plan for business.

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