The SA SME Fund recently launched the University Technology Fund (UTF), a first of its kind in Africa. The University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University are the first two universities that will participate in the fund, which will provide UCT spin-off companies with access to R50 million, as well as additional seed funding to support innovation projects within the university.

UCT is required to co-invest R20 million alongside the fund in the ventures and will draw from the UCT Evergreen Fund, which was operationalised in 2017 through alumni donations and Council approving UCT making private equity investments.

The IP Advisory Committee has already made four Evergreen Fund investments in UCT spin-offs.

Chair of the UCT Private Equity Advisory Committee, Chris Derksen, said, “I am excited by the opportunity that the UTF will bring to supporting deep-tech spin-offs from the university and particularly as it supports early-stage investment. Bridging the risk gap between technologies leaving the university and the point where venture capital typically invests supports the commercialisation of world-class intellectual capital that exists in South Africa.”

Executive Director: Finance, Ashley Francis, said, “UCT has seen the value in supporting innovation and established the Innovation Builder fund, which provides R500 000 to projects to mature research outputs and de-risk them for later-stage funding. This fund is key to ensuring a strong investment pipeline for the UTF”.

“We are fortunate to be starting the next three-year cycle of funding from the National Intellectual Property Management Office this year,” said Piet Barnard, director of Research Contracts and Innovation (RC&I).

“This will bring five new team members to RC&I who will provide support for the different projects, the creation of spin-off companies, as well as the associated due diligence and fund management activities”

Championing this initiative, CEO of the SA SME Fund, Ketso Gordhan, said that he is excited by the prospect of partnering with South African universities to commercialise technologies and business ideas arising across South African campuses. The next step is for the fund to be expanded to include more universities.

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