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Building a vibrant innovation ecosystem in the Southern Gauteng Region

The Vaal University of Technology (VUT) is constituted in terms of the Higher Education Act and registered with the Department of Higher Education with a mandate to enhance teaching, learning, research and community engagement.

In order to support government priorities to boost economic development and to generate a 3rd stream income for the university, the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) has established the VUT Southern Gauteng Science and Technology Park (referred to as the VUT Science Park) in 2012 as a strategic technology hub in the Southern Gauteng region of South Africa. The vision of the Science Park is to become a leading Science and Technology Park that makes a significant contribution to the wealth and welfare of the people of Southern Gauteng Region. The goals of the Science Park are:

* To support enterprise and regional industrial development. * To foster research, innovation and technology development. * To drive community impact through partnerships. * To develop an efficient and financially sustainable organisation.

The Science Park was established in 2012 and already has a unique value offering which includes:

* A University owned 172 hectares of land with some infrastructure such as four large auditoriums constituting a conference centre, business parks, office spaces, training and incubation facilities. * Located within a community of Sebokeng and surrounded by major industrial partners such as Arcelor Mittal, Sasol; and close to major railway line and highways. * Operates a unique world class Advanced Manufacturing Platform with more than R80mil worth of advanced 3D printers to assist entrepreneurs develop product prototypes. * Is operated through a ring-fenced VUT Enterprise which offers a back-office support for enterprises in fulfilling functions such as operations and projects management, legal and financial support, human resource management, marketing and strategy development; and is supported by VUT academic programs in engineering, management sciences and applied sciences.

The Science Park drives technology platforms to enable product development and prototyping to complement the research capacity located at main campus. The technology platforms includes:

* Advanced Manufacturing - The Advanced Manufacturing Program offers state of the art cutting edge technology in manufacturing especially in the area of design and additive/ digital manufacturing (3D printing). The Advanced Manufacturing Precinct is driven by Innovation and Engineering and offers product design and optimisation ending with prototype manufacturing. The centre works closely with Steinmuller Training Academy which offers training to artisans on welding. The core program is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) through the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) technology station program. * Footwear and Leather Cluster - This cluster aims to revitalise the South African footwear and leather sector by benchmarking the sector, providing training and skills transfer opportunities, access to raw material & market opportunities and access to technologies. The cluster has been funded by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). * Agriculture and Agro-processing - The Agricultural and Agro processing program is a new program we are establishing as a holistic and integrated program to revitalise agriculture especially commercial farming in the Vaal as well as enhance value addition of the products. We plan to produce a variety of agricultural-based products such as natural cosmetics, traditional medicines, indigenous foods and neutraceuticals, as well as beneficiate waste to generate energy through linking various components of the Integrated Agriculture revitalisation value chain. An example of a funded project is the Traditional Medicine Institute funded by the Industrial Development Cooperation (IDC) to assist traditional healers test, validate and formulate their herbal remedies using scientific methods as well as the Centre of Sustainable Livelihood funded to work on Soya beneficiation projects.

Our business model drives impact through the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) which offers training, incubation and nurtures entrepreneurs so as to develop sustainable enterprises. Working with complementary centres such as the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) we offer support such as business registration, intellectual property management as well as fund raising to entrepreneur. We currently train entrepreneurs with industry partners such as Sasol and Arcelor Mittal through:

* The six-months entry training programme which trains 100 unemployed high school graduates supported by Sasol, * Vaal Entrepreneur Program which trains advanced entrepreneurs on weekends funded by Arcelor Mittal.

There are also numerous entrepreneurship seminars and workshops such as start-up weekend and innovate which we host in partnership with the Innovation Hub.