Precarious living conditions, access to basic services, and environmental factors such as air pollution, and indoor fuel combustion have been recognised to negatively impact the health of individuals and communities living in low-income urban settlements.


In June, the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS) and the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa with their Swiss and South African Partners (University of Basel, ETHZ, DST, TIA, NRF) initiated an innovation challenge aimed at addressing these underlying health Issues, and had by its submission deadline (31 July) received in excess of a 114 proposals from across South-Africa and Switzerland.


RIIS managing partner Clen Cook said: “the overwhelming response [to the challenge] speaks to the fact that there are many organisations and entrepreneurs actively trying to effect change, and projects such as this one creates a platform for real social impact by firstly identifying solutions, and secondly providing various levels of support through partner collaboration”.


Submissions will now be evaluated by a panel, after which successful submissions will have the chance to participate in the Swiss-South African Business Development Program and may receive incubation support and seed funding from TIA. They will gain access to the match and invest platform and exhibition space at the 10th SA Innovation Summit. Successful finalists will also get the opportunity to determine their technology validation level in a planned ETH-Zurich research test house as well as access various networking and showcasing events. Applicable innovations will be showcased at the planned 2018 Swiss South-Africa Environmental Health Congress


The challenge partners are: The Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), ETH-Zurich, Urban Think Tank, Ikhayalami, the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the Embassy of Switzerland in South Africa and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). University of Basel



What is Open Innovation?

An open approach to innovation, akin to crowd sourcing, believes that the best ideas can often be found outside of a single organisation. Open innovation helps organisations to rapidly identify and source ideas and solutions outside of their immediate network, in a safe and low risk manner.

What is meant by challenge?

An open innovation challenge is a public call, intended to bring together as many great ideas and solutions as possible to solve a problem, or take advantage of an opportunity. Challenges are usually run via an online open innovation platform.

Who is the National Research Foundation?

The NRF is an independent statutory body in South Africa, with the goal to create innovative funding instruments, advance research career development, increase public science engagement and to establish leading-edge research platforms that will transform the scientific landscape.

Who is the University of Basel?

Situated in Switzerland, the University has international regard for its achievements in research and teaching. Its five strategic focus areas in research are: Life Sciences, Visual Studies, Nanoscience, Sustainability and Energy Research and European and Global Studies

Who is the Swiss Embassy in South Africa?

As the official representation of Switzerland, the embassy is invested in all matters concerning diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Embassy’s mandate includes developing research and development cooperation between the two countries.



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