The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) through its BioFISA II programme is committed to improve the state of biosciences by supporting innovations in biosciences and contributing to Southern Africa’s knowledge economy.
In 2017, the BioFISA II programme partnered with the Southern Africa Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) to develop and deliver a first of its kind online course on the Commercialisation of Bioscience Innovations for the SADC bioscience industry. Furthermore BioFISA II’s and SARIMA’s aim was to develop a reasonable self-paced, modular and cost effective course to a large regional audience and due to the fact that both organisations had a regional footprint, this provided an ideal collaboration and partnership opportunity.
Motivated to take innovations to the marketplace, the aim of the course was to build capacity in Small, Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) and other regional organisations in areas pertinent to the successful commercialisation of bioscience innovations.
While there are many similar courses in the market, SARIMA General Manager, Nelisha Naidoo said what differentiated their course from the rest is that currently there are no courses that focus on bioscience specific issues.
“The need for strong value proposition; protected competitive advantage; and appreciation of the development and regulatory pathways to facilitated realistic planning; and raising the capital for the generally high cost to market entry that characterises bioscience innovations – these are some of the key issues that impact the commercialisation decisions the SMME/Innovator will have to take. This course addresses these challenges,” she said.
The four month course was delivered on a virtual online and offline component, and according to SARIMA this was to ensure that participants could view the course material in their own time prior to the live webinar which allowed them the opportunity to ask questions and engage with the course presenters and each other.
“Delivering the courses via online mode allowed for greater participation from SADC member states. This also encouraged greater sharing of knowledge and expertise in different environments, possible collaborations and building of networks beyond the course. Another reason was also that this course format allowed for saving in terms of time and cost of travel for participants,” Naidoo added.
“Our primary target audience were SMMEs and entrepreneurs, however considering that Biotech is a niche area and technology transfer and commercialisation of innovations is relatively a new concept in the SADC region; we also included biotech researchers and technology transfer practitioners from universities as well as those involved in policy and funding of bioscience research, development and commercialisation,” Naidoo said.
Through its extensive footprint in the region and the expertise built over the last 17 years, SARIMA was able to secure expert trainers from industry, academia, research councils and innovation and business development practitioners to prepare and present the training videos and the webinars.
The course attracted a total number of 79 participants from 7 SADC countries registered across all four course modules and attendance certificates were provided for each course to participants that participated in the live webinar and submitted questions to the course presenters in respect of the course material. Twenty nine participants were directly involved in SANBio/ BioFISA II funded projects and initiatives, thus further enhancing their capacity in bioscience commercialisation.
Asked to comment on her overall experience on the course, National Food Technology Research Centre (NFTRC) Principle Research Scientist, Minah Mosele said she attended the course with hopes to expand her knowledge on the commercialisation of her research outputs.
“I also learnt that as a scientist it is better to protect intellectual property (IP) before publishing. Different types of IP were discussed and their legal implications. The process of how to present a value proposition to investors was also discussed. The course also discussed different types of taxation to be aware when getting into a bioscience related business,” Mosele explained.
“In particular one of the modules focusing on the regulatory framework and pathways for commercialising innovations in health and nutrition was highly informative and provided some excellent food for thought on strategies for commercialisation,” stated Thiru Swettenham, from the BioFISA II Programme.
The partnership with SARIMA was one of the mechanisms for supporting regional collaboration and capacity building driven by the BioFISA II Programme. As part of enhancing human capacity in the region including the development of entrepreneurial skills, SANBio with the support of the BioFISA II Programme funded various capacity building initiatives which were implemented by partners in the SANBio member states.
A total of 12 course offerings were supported mainly from the SANBio nodes and other key Southern African regional training and academic institutions, These courses ranged from agroprocessing & entrepreneurship, plant genetic conservation, documentation information systems, aquaculture & entrepreneurship, bioinformatics, veterinary diagnostics, ethnomedicine, natural product formulation and indigenous food innovation. SANBio is committed to enhancing capacity and capability in biosciences in the region and will continue engaging with its extensive partner network in the 13 countries it operates in to work towards achieving this objective.