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Innovation Entanglement at Three South African Tech Hubs

Lucienne Abrahams
LINK Director


This study explores innovation modalities at three South African tech hubs: Bandwidth Barn Khayelitsha and Workshop 17 in Cape Town, and the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in Johannesburg. The study finds that tech start-ups’ ability to scale is generally enhanced by their participation in the hubs. Furthermore, it is found that scaling by start-ups, and by the tech hubs hosting them, is enhanced when they actively drive the terms of their “entanglement” with exogenous and endogenous factors and external entities—a conceptual framework first developed in an earlier study of university research linkages (Abrahams, 2016). This present study finds that innovation entanglement by the hubs and their start-ups allows them to work through the adversity and states of complexity prevalent in their innovation ecosystems.

tech hubs, digital innovation, tech enablement, collaboration, knowledge creation, knowledge governance, complexity, innovation entanglement, South Africa

Recommended citation
Abrahams, L. (2020). Innovation entanglement at three South African tech hubs. The African Journal of Information and Communication (AJIC), 26, 1-29. 

The research for this article was carried out as part of the Wits LINK Centre’s participation in the Open African Innovation Research (Open AIR) network, in partnership with the University of Cape Town, the University of Johannesburg, Strathmore University in Nairobi, the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, and The American University in Cairo. The author acknowledges the support provided for this research by Open AIR, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The views expressed in this work are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the research funders. The author also extends thanks for the contributions of all the research respondents, and for the contribution made by Wits LINK Centre Master’s student Yolisa Kedama, who compiled information on all South African tech hubs in operation at the time of the research. The LINK Centre is amongst the founding institutions at one of the three hubs studied, the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct.