|Media interest is key in Research Uptake success: showcasing Innovation|
|Friday, 21 August 2015 09:11|
Engaging with print, electronic and digital public and technical media is an important part of university Research Uptake – journalists can play an important role in linking universities with their stakeholders, including industry, policy influencers and the general public. CPUT’s recent Innovation Showcase event shows how successfully engaging with the media can bring big rewards.
The pivotal role that the media can play in supporting Research Uptake was displayed at its best during the very first Innovation Showcase hosted by the Cape Peninsula University of Technology recently.
Journalists from across the country were invited to see how CPUT is living its mantra of socially impactful research and they came in numbers, eager to see exactly what the students and staff of CPUT have been up to.
Without spending a cent on a media or PR budget CPUT managed to secure the equivalent of R1 million in free editorial thanks to the attractive innovations on display.
CPUT’s Media Liaison Lauren Kansley says the positive response shows that there is interest in applied research from the media if the correct strategies to engage with different sectors is adopted.
“By understanding each publication or media house intimately we seeded the appropriate device or innovation correctly. That way each journalist found value in attending the event while at the same time CPUT was prominently displayed.”
The Small Scale Modular Solar Powered Aquaponics System allows communities to do small scale farming, especially in areas where there is little or no infrastructure and low levels of expertise
Power Of The Media: Linking Research and Innovation with Industry Partners
A total of 35 innovations were on display and all product innovators (university staff or students) left the Showcase event with no fewer than three potential sale or investor leads per product.
Apart from radio, print, magazine and TV coverage the devices and innovations caught the eye of potential investors who did not necessarily attend the event but were made aware of it through the media.
One such device - The Uyindoda Male Medical Circumcision Underwear - enjoyed the lion’s share of the press attention because the problem it sought to solve, botched male circumcision, was particularly prominent in the news at the time.
Positive spin-offs from the wide spread media attention included high level meetings with administrators at one of South Africa’s largest hospitals, with insurance companies, and invitations to present at a number of conferences, and has increased sales of the device.
Thinking Out Of The Box
Another popular invention was the Small Scale Modular Solar Powered Aquaponics System, invented by Mechanical Engineering lecturer Fareed Ismail. The invention will allow communities to do small scale farming, especially in areas where there is little or no infrastructure and low levels of expertise.
Several inventions looked at finding solutions for problems the inventors encountered first hand, such as backpacker Industrial Design graduate, Ryan Higgo. He developed the Snugack, a backpack that assist backpackers with security and resting whilst in transit or travelling.
A large number of inventions looked at finding solutions for problems the inventors encountered first hand, such as backpacker Industrial Design graduate, Ryan Higgo. He developed the Snugack, a backpack that assist backpackers with security and resting whilst in transit or travelling
Others looked at solving problems they encountered through research in communities, such as Prof Spinney Benade and Dr Maretha Opperman, who developed a range of health supplements to target general health conditions in children and adults.
Strategic Institutional Support
An initiative of the university’s Technology Transfer Office (TTO), the Innovation Showcase was not merely just a celebration of innovation, but a strategic move in the research uptake process at CPUT.
Chris Lombard, Business Manager at the TTO says the final step in the CPUT Value Chain is to commercialize the innovations by putting them into the public domain at the correct stage – when the intellectual property has been secured and has proven potential value.
“It is only through innovation that we can create enterprises in South Africa, enabling our students to become employers – the only real method of addressing job creation and poverty,” he says.
Lombard says most of the products displayed are in advanced technology readiness levels, ie approaching the point where they need to spin off from the university as start-up companies.
“Exposing the CPUT innovations is the platform to create the contact between innovators in start-up companies and investors to take them to the first levels of financial viability.”
Dr Chris Nhlapo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Technology Innovation and Partnerships, who is developing strategies to ensure a changing culture of research practice so that research uptake becomes the norm at CPUT says the institution is alive to the fact that innovation is a required national competence and a survival issue.
“We believe it is our obligation to change, enhance, and save lives through the commercialization of our research outputs and foster research uptake to address the Millennium Development Goals.”
“Harvesting the new ideas from laboratory to the marketplace is mission critical to a university of technology like us.”
Lauren Kansley is the CPUT Media Liaison Officer and Candes Keating the CPUT Communication Officer
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