To mark the Student Entrepreneurship Week, UKZN InQubate and the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) hosted a seminar on intellectual property (IP), commercialisation and entrepreneurship. Professor Neil Koorbanally of the School of Chemistry and Physics, Ms Nonkululeko Shange and Ms Simphiwe Mntambo of InQubate gave presentations at the seminar which was held in Pietermaritzburg.
The event targeted postgraduate students who are conducting research and formulating ideas so that these could be harnessed as a vehicle for an entrepreneurial endeavour. InQubate hosted the event to fulfil its aim of developing UKZN research into solutions for society and to enable researchers to get their research to where it is most needed.
‘Today’s seminar is to give you a taste of what entrepreneurship is and change your thinking when you’re doing your research,’ said Koorbanally who introduced the concept of entrepreneurship.
Koorbanally explained that intellectual property is something intangible that results from creativity. He described commercialisation as tying intellectual property to making money from that property, resulting in entrepreneurship; the activity of setting up a business and taking on some financial risk to gain a profit.
‘If you’re passionate about something, it’s likely that you will succeed at it,’ said Koorbanally. He inspired students with examples of successful enterprises, and reminded them that an innovation can be a simple solution to fill a gap and need not be an elaborate initiative.
Koorbanally detailed the steps to take an idea to a research project and from there to commercialisation, emphasising that the idea should ideally be developed to address a societal problem. He also focused on the qualities entrepreneurs need, including problem-solving abilities, creativity, passion and risk-taking.
Shange gave a presentation on the role of InQubate as the technology transfer office under UKZN’s research division in handling intellectual property and commercialisation to assist researchers in protecting their ideas and taking them to the market. She added that InQubate also offers consultancy and student entrepreneurship services, the latter headed by Mntambo.
Shange highlighted the role of InQubate in supporting the ideas of UKZN’s staff and students and also relayed information about the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Act and UKZN’s IP policy, and spoke about patenting and InQubate’s work with researchers and industry.
‘Our mandate is to effectively transfer research outputs from the Institution to the market, ensuring that the ideas you develop during your research are actually commercialised for the benefit of the people,’ said Shange.
Mntambo’s presentation involved her work with the ENSPIRE project which promotes job creation through the facilitation of development of entrepreneurial skills and the creation of commercial businesses at UKZN. She highlighted the reality of university graduates struggling to find employment; encouraging students to explore creating their own employment using skills learnt during their studies.
She also noted the services offered through ENSPIRE, such as business mentorship.
The seminar was well-received by students, with discussions following the presentations focusing on how the University and students can work together on businesses developed by researchers.
Words: Christine Cuénod
Photograph: Ntokozo Dladla