UWC Holds Nanoscience Pitch Competition to Encourage Students to Take Up Entrepreneurship

he National Nanoscience Teaching and Training Platform, with its hub based at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), hosted its first pitching competition for all past and current students.

 

The platform is a multi-institution and multi-disciplinary collaborative initiative funded by the Department of Science and Innovation to offer a structured Master of Science (MSc) Nanoscience degree in Nanochemistry, Nanophysics and Nanobiomedical Science. The partner institutions are UWC, Nelson Mandela University, the University of Free State and the University of Johannesburg.

 

The competition was hosted to encourage graduates and current students to start thinking about their research and its possible impact beyond the laboratory. The MSc Nanoscience training programme is unique because it offers entrepreneurship training as part of its coursework. The platform plans to expand on that by introducing programmes offered by the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Technology Transfer Office at UWC.

 

Karen Eksteen, the founder of innovation consultancy Innocircle, provided all participants with a pitch coaching session before the competition, since this was a first for all of them.

The Allan and Gill Gray Philanthropies donated R30,000 prize money for the winning pitches. As an additional benefit, the Technology Transfer Office at UWC will guide the winners in developing their ideas. The judges commented that the presentations were of good quality but that most ideas still require more work before becoming commercial successes. They decided that the prize money would be equally split by three presenters: Robyn Lesch, Dorah Maisela and James Mercuur.

 

Maisela, a second-year MSc student in Nanoscience at UWC, expressed joy for winning the competition: “It made me feel proud and revealed how capable I am and how far I can come. This was such a great achievement.”

 

Maisela’s research looked at the development of a nano-based diagnostic device. According to her, this innovative device has the potential to lead to simpler, more accurate, and cheaper ways of diagnosing diseases.

 

The judges were UWC alumnus and successful entrepreneur, Ashley Uys, who is the CEO of Medical Diagnostech, a successful start-up in the nanofield; J-D Nel from Growthlabs who represented Allan and Gill Gray Philanthropies; Karen Mentoor, a coach for start-up companies from INNOCIRCLE; Ana Casanueva, Head of the Technology Transfer Office at UWC; and, Abe Oliver, Director of Entrepreneurship at UWC.

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