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INVITATION TO ENTER INNOVATIONTOWN AWARDS (article first published : 2007-05-15)

What does a project that creates a micro-economy in an impoverished community have in common with mushroom shaped houses?

Apart from changing the lives of thousands of ordinary people, these are all examples of South Africa’s inherent ability to innovate a better world. A new campaign called innovationTOWN is scouring the land to seek out the country’s top inventors, and is inviting innovators to enter their creations, inventions and projects into a national innovation competition.

Entries close at the end of August and innovators are urged to go to www.innovationtown.co.za for more detail.

innovationTOWN has the backing of some of South Africa’s top innovators, businesses and social entrepreneurs, including CIDA City Campus, the International Marketing Council and Brand South Africa, Shujaa Holdings, African Bank and the South African Post Office. A national campaign, innovationTOWN seeks to promote innovation as a solution oriented attitude that can be harnessed to help alleviate the social and economic challenges that face South Africa. Elements of the campaign include the iHERO Awards that finds and rewards innovators; an education initiative; a programme that seeks to match innovators with investors; an innovation faire that exhibits award-winning innovations; a photo and narrative exhibition on innovation; and a national advertising and publicity initiative aimed at putting innovation back on the local agenda.

By finding and rewarding innovators, innovationTOWN seeks to show that innovation is an attitude that belongs to the people of this country and touches every sphere of every day life. The campaign also seeks to showcase how South African innovators are making this country a better place to live in a million different little ways.

A good example of local innovation is Uniep, a groundbreaking community project designed to address poverty and unemployment in the Uniondale area by intermeshing a number of projects to create a sustainable micro-economy within this impoverished area. The supply of food to destitute members of the community has been turned into a small business that is run by formerly unemployed women. The community kitchen supplies meals to other community support groups, such as community carers (also unemployed women). Fresh produce is purchased from community gardens, once again run by previously unemployed women, while more unemployed people produce furniture. More than 400 people and their families have benefited.

Another local innovator who is changing lives is Cape Town entrepreneur Joseph Feigelson who wants to make South Africa’s dire housing shortage a thing of the past. His dream? That squatter camps and lego-block RDP houses will disappear, to be replaced by rows of spherical-shaped dome houses looking much like giant mushrooms. Feigelson is the driving force behind n’Kozi Homes, and believes the solution to South Africa’s housing crisis lies in a unique geodesic dome-shaped house design that has a number of cost, environmental and socio-economic benefits. These “magic mushrooms” are not only among the most environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient structures known to man. They are also quick and cost-effective to build, and offer numerous job creation and entrepreneurial opportunities in their manufacture and assembly. A crew of five with minimal training can assemble a 33m2 structure, including a solar hot water system and waterless toilet, within days.

Uniep and n’Kozi Homes are proof that South Africa is a can-do nation of innovators that are forging creative solutions to the challenges this country faces. If you are an innovator, then innovationTOWN is looking for you. Go to www.innovationtown.co.za today to enter the innovation awards, or call 011 880 7767 for more information.




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