The University of South Africa (UNISA) is collaborating with the Georgia Institute of Technology to foster an innovation-focused, university-based economic development ecosystem is South Africa.
The agreement — solidified April 26, 2019 — calls for Tech’s assistance and guidance in the creation of an innovation ecosystem to support student entrepreneurship, curricular and extra-curricular programs, and faculty and student venture creation, as well as programs that small business development opportunities and industry engagement in South Africa. While South Africa is Africa’s second-wealthiest nation as ranked by gross domestic product, the country has an unemployment rate of 25 percent, one of the highest in the world.
“With this partnership, I am convinced that current and future generations will look back and say this was an intervention that turned the course of our university and communities through enterprise innovation,” said M.S. Makhanya, UNISA principal and vice chancellor. “This inspires us because we are very clear about the future we are building together.”
The effort comes after a delegation of UNISA educators spent two weeks in Atlanta to study Georgia Tech’s economic development group, the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2).
Comprised of a dozen programs, EI2 is the largest university-based economic development organization of its kind in the United States.
While on campus, the South African delegates met with various EI2 programs, including the Advanced Technology Development Center, Georgia’s technology incubator, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which works with manufacturers to innovate, increase top-line growth and reduce bottom-line costs, and Innovation Corps., which prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and foster entrepreneurship. They also met with Georgia Tech’s Office of Industry Collaboration, and visited other economic development-oriented entities, including Georgia State University.
Leading the two-week immersion effort was EI2‘s Innovation Ecosystems program, which works with domestic and international communities, universities, and organizations to help them develop and implement entrepreneurship and business incubation programs, as well as ecosystem analysis, among other services. Innovation Ecosystems has done projects in the majority of Georgia’s 159 counties and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, as well as Peru, France, Algeria, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), an organization comprised of 21 countries that are mostly in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We have a three-pronged approach with this collaborative effort, ” said Juli Golemi, Innovation Ecosystems’ senior project manager. ” Our focus is to work with them to help them set up and build an innovation-centered ecosystem — one that’s built around students, faculty, and communities. The long-term goal is for that ecosystem to support and further expand sustainable innovation and economic growth.”
The project supports Georgia Tech’s overall mission and reflect’s its motto of progress and service, said Leslie Sharp, the Institute’s associate vice provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development. Sharp represented the Institute at the signing ceremony between the two schools.
“This partnership is symbolic of our motto and our commitment to being the technological university of the 21st century,” Sharp said. “This underscores the history of Georgia Tech and city of Atlanta. We can progress together.”