Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) – Closing 1 June 2014

The Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) provides a very useful opportunity for entrepreneurs in the biosciences, green, ICT and health sectors. The opportunity consists of both incubation services, and seed funding. The process of selecting successful applicants is multi-staged, and as such provides a very important way to better develop a strategy for your business.
This initiative has been going for four years, and has the following indicators:

  •   Attracted over 400 entries.
  •  Invested over R5 million in seed funding and incubation support
  • Supported 23 startups in the ICT, green, health technology and biotech sectors

GAP is an expanded version of the Gauteng Innovation Competition and GAP Biosciences programme which, over the past four years, attracted more than 400 entries and invested over R5 million in seed funding and incubation support into 23 startups in the ICT, green, health technology and biotech sectors.

About Gauteng Accelerator Programme

The 2014 Gauteng Accelerator Programme (GAP) innovation competitions are open for entries. The 14 winners will access specialised incubation services at The Innovation Hub valued at almost R2 million, and a cash awards and seed funding pool of R2.75 million.
Over the next 6 months competition participants and finalists will participate in workshops and business training hosted by leaders in the technology entrepreneurship field, culminating in the GAP awards ceremony on 20 November 2014. To accelerate your venture enter online before 1 June at

  • GAP Biosciences winners share R1 million in seed funding and will be incubated at the prestigious new BioPark under construction at The Innovation Hub. The competition is run in partnership with the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) and in collaboration with Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and is a unique programme that assists scientists and entrepreneurs to pursue commercially viable opportunities for their cutting edge bioscience technologies. This year the competition also received sponsorship from Pfizer.


  • GAP Green is run in collaboration with the South African Climate Innovation Centre, a World Bank clean tech incubator based at The Innovation Hub, and seeks emerging entrepreneurs developing green technology solutions related to energy security, water management, waste and sanitation, sustainable mobility and food security. The four winners also share R650,000 in cash and seed funding.


  •  GAP ICT aims to identify researchers and entrepreneurs working on ICT-based solutions to our country’s biggest challenges, from mobile applications used in classrooms to geo-spatial technologies for environmental and disaster management. GAP ICT is a joint project with mLab Southern Africa, also based at The Innovation Hub, which will host a competition hackathon in August 2014.


  •  GAP Medical – Health Technologies is run in partnership with the organisers of the World Innovation Day to be held in Geneva in 2014. The competition is focused on identifying and nurturing health innovations that will contribute to the improvement of health service delivery within hospitals, and winners access incubation at The Innovation Hub and share R450,000 in seed funding.


Key Dates

Competition opens: 01 April 2014
Competition closes: 23h59 on 01 June 2014
Adjudication & Semi-finalist: 02-06 June 2014
Smart Living Challenge Workshop: 24 June 2014
Business Training: 14-18 July 2014
Hackathon:15-17 August 2014
Submission of Business Models: 30 September 2014
Pitching/Judging: 30 October 2014
GAP Awards Ceremony:20 November 2014
Incubation starts:January 2015

Contact Details

If you have any queries about any of the competitions, please send an email to the competition email addresses below. Alternatively feel free to visit or call us at The Innovation Hub at any time on +27 (0)12 844 0000 to get more information. We will reply to your queries as soon as we can.
GAP Green:
GAP Biosciences:
GAP Medical:

Small Business Ministry Should Learn by Doing

Strategy before structure – President Jacob Zuma should heed this guideline when considering a small business ministry.
The idea of creating a small business ministry was given strong support on the election campaign trail by senior leaders of the African National Congress. Supporters of the idea, especially from organised black business, correctly point out that public policy on small business requires a major overhaul. Intriguingly, organised black business have argued that a small business ministry is required to support and create “black industrialist”, which suggests a possible focus on creating smaller manufacturers.

Strategy and structure

The idea has however not received unanimous support as small business advocates worry that it will create a “ghetto” into which all small business issues will be consigned, without impacting on broader economic policy. The alternative suggestions include creating a commission or locating small business in the Presidency.
Taken together, there is agreement that improving public policy for small business requires an institutional home, but disagreements on exactly what that home should be. Underpinning this call for a home for small business in government, is the widely accepted view that public policy on small business requires a major overhaul. It is on this foundation, that the tensions between strategy and structure can be merged.
Traditionally, the process of developing public policy culminates in a White Paper. Usually, this is based on research, available evidence and consultation. A more experimental approach to public policy making could however serve small business owners better and improve the quality of public policy. The idiom “learning by doing” summarises this approach. [ref] This experimental approach has gained credence with the publication of books such as Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo  and More than good intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel  These books provide important ways to understand how to make choices between public policy options and to scale successful initiatives. In the case of South African small business it is worth considering such an approach. [/ref]


As an example, government could create a venture capital fund that aims to accelerate startup activity in South Africa. Innovations such as requiring entrepreneurs to find matching funds from other sources, or from their savings could be introduced. In addition, partnerships with existing small business support programmes could be fostered. Importantly, government would begin to understand its role as a venture capitalists, and through that explore whether a shift from providing loans to venture capital would work.
As another example, government could reduce the risk of starting a business by dramatically reducing or eliminating taxes for small business. This would be a much more ambitious programme of tax reduction for small business than the existing programmes. Government would thus learn whether eliminating taxes on small business would support businesses to move beyond the startup phase.
In yet another example, government would seek to grow the number of suppliers into value chains. This would require creating markets in which smaller companies could sell to larger companies, on a fairer basis. The small scale agricultural sector could be a prime candidate for such an initiative, through both selling of produce and through small scale agro-processing. In this case, government plays a role as an intermediary and market maker, either directly or through partnerships.
More experimentally, government could support the creation of maker spaces – which provide tools for prototyping products and reduce the costs through digital innovations. The current work by the Department of Trade and Industry on incubators could be leveraged to support South Africa’s innovators.
These examples are all affordable, within existing resources, but require careful  reprioritisation of both taxation and expenditure. Importantly, the small business ministry in these examples would not be playing an “integrating and coordinating” role but rather as a space to test several carefully selected ideas. In this process, it would construct its relevance and provide leadership to government departments.

Structural Change?

The Achilles heel of adopting a more experimental approach; critiques would argue; is that it does not tackle wider structural changes needed in the economy. This warning must be heeded, if we are to proverbially “get bang for our public bucks”. Thee lessons learned from the experiments would be vital to understanding how to scale interventions in the small business sector, especially the links to industrial policy . In so doing, projects selected to scaled up would support wider structural changes.
In providing a mandate to experiment with several ideas would create a model of evidence based public policy making, where government learns by doing. In adopting such an approach the speed of getting products to support small business is increased, as is the ability to scale up what works. In making decisions on small business ministry President Zuma must focus on the development of strategy through experiments, rather than a staid process that leads to a White Paper that emphasises “coordinating and integration”.
An edited version of this column first appeared in the Sunday Times on May 18, 2014.

Entrepreneurship Training – University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town (UCT)  is offering entrepreneurship training at a steeply discounted price.  The Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development is requesting applications for the six month course. Applications close on the 30 May 2014.  The academy describes itself as follows:

The Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development is a post matric level Academy that offers an inspiring and innovative programme in entrepreneurship for young people between the ages of 18 and 30. The programme is offered to young people who are passionate about business and personal development (and learning more about these topics) but who struggle to do so due to financial, academic and social challenges.

The programme consists of modules in business skills and personal development. This includes:

  • Innovation, business idea development and testing
  •  HR, marketing, strategy, cost accounting and operations
  • Business numeracy and English business literacy
  •  Workshops on time management, presentation skills, career readiness and professionalism
  •  Entrepreneurial showcases and guest speakers

Successful graduates will receive a UCT short course certificate
The programme cost if R 1950-00 for six months. The organisers indicate that the usual cost of such a programme is R 20 000-00.
The application form is available for download below. Please click the link below to open up the application form in PDF.
[download id=”6579″]
The video below provides an introduction to the Academy.


National Empowerment Fund -R 950 Million available for black business

The National Empowerment Fund (NEF) has an important role to play in South Africa. It describes its vision as follows:

The NEF’s Vision is to become the leading provider of innovative transformation solutions for an economically inclusive South Africa.

Despite this vision, it has faced challenges in being recapitalised. These challenges have been now overcome, with R 950 million available to support black business in South Africa.  Philisiwe Mthethwa, the Chief Executive Officer of the NEF outlines the available funds, and the approach of the NEF as follows:

“cash that is immediately available to the NEF for new approvals is R950 million. The
NEF has approved over R5.48 billion worth of transactions for 546 black companies, and over the
years R2 billion has been repaid and reinvested. Whilst the NEF’s cash position as at March 2014 is
R1.48 billion, R529 million of that related to undrawn commitments. As a development financier the
NEF is a patient-capital lender with funding horizons of up to 7 years for some products, and up to 10
years in the case of both rural and industrial development transactions. What this means is that the
NEF’s loan portfolio is still in the economy, and will eventually be repaid for reinvestment purposes”.


NEF – Products and Services

The application process to access funds is described on the NEF website. The main sources of funding are:

  1. Imbewu Fund: This fund is designed to support black entrepreneurs wishing to start new businesses as well support existing black-owned enterprises with expansion capital. The Fund supports these entities by offering debt, quasi-equity and equity finance products with the funding threshold ranging from a minimum of R250 000 to a maximum of R10 million.
  2. Umnotho Fund: This Fund is designed to improve access to BEE capital and has five products: Acquisition Finance, Project Finance, Expansion Finance, Capital Markets Fund, and Liquidity and Warehousing. These products provide capital to black-owned and managed enterprises, black entrepreneurs who are buying equity shares in established black and white owned enterprises, starting new ventures, expanding existing businesses and BEE businesses that are or wish to be listed on the JSE.
  3. Rural and Community Development Fund:  This fund was designed to promote sustainable change in social and economic relations and supporting the goals of growth and development in the rural economy, through financing of sustainable enterprises. This would be achieved through the mobilisation of rural communities in legal entities or cooperatives, in order to participate in the broader economic activities and realise the economic transformation goals in rural South Africa. The fund has four products: Project Finance, Business Acquisition, Expansion Capital and Start-up/Greenfields with the funding threshold ranging from a minimum of R1 million to R50 million.
  4. Strategic Projects Fund: SPF’s sector focus is informed by the government’s strategies on industrial development through the dti’s National Industrial Policy Framework, the corresponding Industrial Policy Action Plans [IPAP] as well as the current government economic growth strategy, the New Growth Path. A full list of sectors is available on the NEF website. Click here.

NEF – Contact Details

Please contact the NEF directly for assistance on application and questions of clarity. Details are provided below:
West Block, 187 Rivonia Road, Morningside 2057
PO Box 31, Melrose Arch, Melrose North 2076
Tel: +27 (11) 305 8000 | Fax: +27 (11) 305 8001
Call Centre: 0861 843 633 / 0861 (THE NEF) (Funding) (General)
Image Credit: Screenshot from official NEF Press statement