From Fundraising to Innovation Ecosystem development; a case study

From the XIII Triple Helix Conference 2015

From Fundraising to Innovation Ecosystem development; a case study.

André Hattingh  Faculty of Engineering, North West University Potchefstroom, North-West Province, South Africa

Keywords: Management of innovation, Ecosystem development, Technology transfer, Triple Helix clustering, Entrepreneurial universities.


The Innovation support Office in the Faculty of Engineering (ISO@FE) at the North-West University is a unique structure in the South African context, and might provide lessons to universities trying to cope with the some of the following constraints: operating in a developing country, constrained financial environment, transitioning from a teaching-learning / research university to an entrepreneurial university – and all of this in an environment where the maturity of the research groups differ substantially and the capacity to manage the triple-helix relationships is lacking.

The ISO@FE went through three distinct phases. The first stage started eight years ago when the ISO@FE began as a small group tasked to raise funding for research in the faculty of engineering. This was a fragmented approach, with little opportunity for growth.

A number of interventions were implemented in Stage Two in order to remove system constraints:

  • A cloud-based project management system was implemented and integrated with a bespoke financial management system.
  • A number of very experienced account managers with industrial, financial and project management experience were appointed.
  • Instead of using the capabilities and needs of the university as the starting point in defining the relationship between the university and the company, we start with a prioritized list of company problems.

Now, in Stage Three, we focus on innovation ecosystem development. This process is based on the following capabilities: industry intelligence, funding intelligence, business development, and research-group development support. We inter alia started a Mathematics and Science school for the university, a portal linking engineering students to project and business opportunities, and furthermore we set up research groups countrywide, which are linked to national priorities and industry needs.

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