From left – Martin Manmohan, Dr Etienne van Wyk and Dr Grace Kanakana - Katumba.
The Business Incubator, which was first established at the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) in 2018, exists to develop young, technologically innovative, aspiring entrepreneurs. It focuses on transforming the aspiring individuals into successful entrepreneurs who can establish profitable businesses.
located at Building 15-G35 at the Soshanguve South campus, the launch of the incubator was announced at the Faculty of Information and Communication Technology’s Faculty Entrepreneurial on EXPO day on 24 May. The launch of the satellite incubator at the Faculty of ICT is testament to the spirit of partnership between the two technology faculties, who already collaborate on research projects and the delivery of robotics training to TVET lecturers.
According to Martin Manmohan, Centre manager at RMCERI, the incubation hub is mandated by government funding agencies to have RMCERI become a TUT incubator dedicated to nurturing and supporting student entrepreneurs, not only from ICT and FEBE, but from other faculties as well.
“From a strategic point of view, the launch at the Soshanguve Campus really means a great deal for us. We will now be able to see how to collaborate between Engineering and ICT as well as other faculties, as well as fulfilling our mandate of creating access for our immediate community to benefit from the services of RMCERI,” said Manmohan.
He explained that RMCERI is a business incubator that provides support, advice and guidance for any business idea or to a business that needs to access the market.
In her address, Executive Dean of FEBE, Dr Grace Kanakana-Katumba, said opportunities for collaboration with the industry, the surrounding community and government stakeholders must be created to ensure the University lives up to its vision of being a people’s university that makes knowledge work.
“Together with our executive team, the Faculty embarked on a strategic review and committed itself to drive innovation for engagement and social development. We investigated our current research chairs, incubators and centres, realising that we, as engineers, can only make knowledge work through innovations as well as providing opportunities for staff and students to be innovative, build products and introduce services that will respond to community needs,” said Kanakana-Katumba.
“The two Faculties realised that the effectiveness of the initiative is dependent on us working together. In order to fulfil the mandate of producing future-ready graduates, we must do things differently, not only taking students through the curricula, sending them out into the world and saying they must make it work, we must also expose students to situations and an environment where they can solve complex problems, are free to make mistakes, try new things, learn and innovate. RMCERI provides a space for students to thrive as innovators and future entrepreneurs,” she added.
When asked why RMCERI wanted to partner with TUT’s Faculty of ICT, Manhohan, said: “One common challenge studentpreneurs often face is to find the right balance between product or service development, marketing, and finance. This struggle is not limited to students but is also prevalent among faculties. The RMCERI Incubation Hub recognizes this issue and aims to address it by bridging the skills and human capital gap among faculties. We understand that equipping technologically innovative entrepreneurs with knowledge and expertise in all three areas of product/service development, marketing and finance, is essential for their success.”
“We are actively working towards manifesting this model as well as ensuring that students and faculties alike receive the necessary support and resources to thrive as entrepreneurs. This initiative highlights our dedication to fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation within our academic community,” he added.
The RMCERI incubator will focus on three tiers of service delivery. Firstly, the incubator’s business services will help students to develop and refine their entrepreneurial ventures. These include assistance with business planning, market research, feasibility studies, as well as guidance on legal and regulatory requirements. By availing these services, students will gain access to expert advice and resources that will enhance the viability and sustainability of their business ideas.
Secondly, the incubator will provide financial and non-financial support to the students, including seed funding, access to grants or loans, mentorship programs, workshops, training sessions and access to shared office spaces or specialized facilities. The aim is to equip students with the necessary resources, skills and knowledge to navigate the challenges of starting and running a successful business.
Lastly, the incubator will create networking opportunities for students. They will have a chance to connect with industry professionals, experienced entrepreneurs, investors and potential collaborators. These connections could open doors to partnerships, mentorship relationships and valuable insights from established professionals in the ICT industry. Such networking opportunities are instrumental to foster growth and provide students with a supportive ecosystem to thrive on their entrepreneurial journey.
Executive Dean of the Faculty of ICT and interim Soshanguve Campus Rector, Dr Etienne van Wyk, is convinced that the satellite incubator will contribute to ensuring that the Faculty produces future-ready graduates. He said: “Participation in the entrepreneurship incubator provides ICT start-ups with a supportive ecosystem, access to expertise and resources, as well as exposure to emerging trends. This will help start-ups become future-ready by equipping them with the necessary skills, knowledge, networks and adaptability to thrive in a rapidly changing business landscape.”