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Wits Innovation Centre

The Wits Innovation Centre (WIC) lies at the heart of the University’s innovation ecosystem that consists of services, programmes, and physical infrastructure to support innovation. The Centre strives to assist researchers and students to transform their ideas from research outputs to innovation. It drives innovation and seeks to develop an ‘innovation mindset’ across the institution.

What We Do

The Wits Innovation Centre:

  • facilitates access to innovation grants, funding, and the resources required for the commercialisation of research,
  • supports innovation fellowships for PhD students and postdoctoral fellows,
  • serves as a conduit between Wits and the private sector to develop solutions to real-world industry problems,
  • integrates and innovates with the Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic to seek opportunities for innovators and initiative-takers,
  • coordinates education and outreach activities related to innovation both within and beyond the University, and
  • seeks to develop a corporate programme comprising of members of industry who will have early access to Wits’ innovation projects, innovators, and other opportunities.

The services are summarised in the diagram below:

The Centre also monitors and evaluates the implementation of the University’s innovation strategy, reports on innovation activities, and facilitates communication around academic endeavours at Wits.

Solving real-world problems

The Centre also advances research impact, external engagement, commercialisation, and entrepreneurship. Wits can address some of the great challenges of the 21st Century through innovation. Universities have a wellspring of diverse expertise and talent, which can be harnessed in diverse ways to solve complex, real-world problems – from making mines safer using technology, to developing novel solutions to overcome inequality. A number of these innovative solutions are already in motion.

Integrating innovation in teaching and learning

The coordination of University-wide academic courses and programmes on innovation and related subject matter is another key role played by the Centre. These will be offered to academic staff and researchers, as well as to registered students to accelerate student-led Innovation at Wits. Other universities, the public and private sectors, and the public will also benefit from Wits-led short courses in innovation offered though the Centre.

Governance

The Centre is led by Mx Name Surname, who occupies the Angela and David Fine Chair in Innovation. He is an innovator with a proven record in university-based innovation and is supported by a team of experienced innovators.

The Wits Innovation Centre reports directly to Prof. Lynn Morris, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation, who oversees the integration and implementation of the University’s Innovation Strategy across various entities within the institution (including faculties, service departments, commercial units and the Research Office), and beyond (the public and private sectors, academia, and civil society).

The DVC is supported by an External Advisory Committee on Innovation, which includes individuals from across the world who have specialised knowledge and experience in university-based innovation, the commercialisation of research, entrepreneurship, start-ups, intellectual property, and stakeholder engagement.

Despite the centralised reporting structure, the WIC will not centralise all innovation activities – these will remain in faculties. However, the Centre will encourage, promote, and incentivise inter-, cross-, and transdisciplinary collaboration.

Funding

The Wits Innovation Centre has received a tremendous boost from Dr David Fine, a Wits alumnus to establish a Chair in Innovation and is working with other partners like the British Council and the University of Edinburgh to further entrepreneurship and tackle unemployment. However, given the nature of innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialisation, additional resources are being sourced through a synergistic community of commercial partners, in addition to the Wits Innovation Fund. This includes concerted efforts from the Development and Fundraising Office, the Wits Health Consortium, and Wits Commercial Enterprise, to identify and tailor new investment, incubation and seed funding opportunities for donors and investors.

Location

The Wits Innovation Centre is embedded in the innovation ecosystem, and will comprise of multiple physical and virtual hubs, incubators and accelerators which are spatially distributed across Wits’ various campuses, so that they are easily accessible to researchers and students working in all faculties and research entities. The hubs are differently equipped and structured to support innovators working in diverse areas.

A common look and feel is being developed so that all physical and virtual innovation spaces are part of the innovation ecosystem. The diagram alongside demonstrates individual hubs, accelerators, and incubators as part of several domain-specific ecosystems, for example FinTech, MedicalTech, EduTech, MiningTech, GovernmentTech, CivilSocietyTech and Rural Tech. The sub-ecosystems will also collaborate in finding cross-cutting areas of activity.