Dynamic mix of new and established innovators take 2017 TT100 awards

South Africa’s small community of technology and business innovators is growing. Some fresh new faces have appeared alongside experienced innovators at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards.

“What we find especially exciting is how emerging and small enterprises – the engines of growth – are not just coming up with great ideas but executing them with insight and precision,” says Professor Bennie Anderson, CEO of The Da Vinci Institute, School of Managerial Leadership.

Newcomers to the awards, which have been running for 26 years, include I AM Emerge, whose Vuleka app empowers township businesses to jointly make bulk purchases, and Passion4Performance, whose online assessment tool is revolutionising training and enabling learners to track their careers from school to retirement.

Among the new faces in the category for medium enterprises is Space Advisory, whose Gecko Imager is blazing new trails in satellite imagery and storage. The imager uses data streaming to and from satellites to capture images at the super-speedy rate of five frames per second.

 A newcomer in the large category is Indian company Nelito Systems, which provides credit facilities to unbanked people in rural areas.

“We welcome the entrants who have won awards for the first time and at the same time congratulate companies who have won TT100 awards in the past and were back again this year,” Professor Anderson says. “That they keep returning demonstrates the value they extract from the TT100 awards and their ability to constantly improve the way they manage technology, innovation, people and systems (TIPS™).”

Winners with staying power

These “repeat” winners include X/procure Software, whose online procurement portal processes over R10 billion worth of pharmaceutical orders a year, payroll software company Accsys, and Durban-based electronics company PFK Electronics.

In total, 28 winners were presented with trophies at a gala dinner held at the Johannesburg Country Club on Wednesday, 15 November 2017, which was attended by business innovators, industry captains, government officials, researchers, and academics.

For the 2017 TT100 awards, The Da Vinci Institute collaborated with several long-time partners, notably the Department of Science and Technology, Eskom, Blank Canvas International and Innocentrix.

Giving the keynote address at the 2017 Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards, Minister of Science and Technology Mrs Naledi Pandor said she was impressed with the quality of business innovation entries in this year’s competition, which was encouraging given the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objective of turning South Africa into a high-growth, employment generating, knowledge-based economy.

Minister Pandor said the long-standing alliance that the DST has maintained with the TT100 awards programme was central to the ongoing efforts to strengthen public-private partnerships in support of South African technology-based businesses.

“Such partnerships not only enable awareness creation of business technology development initiatives and opportunities, but also profile the innovation prowess of South African tech companies to local and international markets,” she said.

Identifying role models

Running since 1991, the aim of the TT100 awards programme is to promote the culture of innovation amongst large, medium, small and emerging businesses.

The programme seeks to identify role models within the management of innovation and technology domains who have demonstrated their excellence in co-creating new workplace realities.

“The awards do not judge the worthiness of new technologies, but rather focus on how organisations manage the process of creating new technologies and innovations, and to what extent they are doing it sustainably and systemically,” Prof Anderson said.

“We have become aware that unless organisations manage their technology, innovation, people, and systems, and connect the relationships between them, innovation does not come to fruition, its commercialisation is not sustainable, and its socio-economic impact negligible,” he added.

The 2017 awards attracted a total of 379 entries in seven categories:

·         Management of technology
·         Management of innovation
·         Management of people
·         Management of systems
·         Sustainability
·         Overall excellence
·         Innovation concepts

The Innovation Concepts category was introduced for the first time this year. “With the addition of this category to the TT100 awards programme, we are hoping to connect the innovators to venture capitalists and other potential funders to enable them to commercialise their concepts and take these promising ventures to the market,” Prof Anderson said.

How the winners were selected

A total of 91 category finalists were selected following a rigorous face-to-face adjudication process, which culminated in 28 category winners being selected as the top-performing innovators of 2017.

In the new Innovation Concepts category, I AM Emerge came out tops among emerging entrants with its Vuleka App, which facilitates the bulk purchase of goods for township businesses.

The small business award in this category went to Tabula Rasa Investments Private Limited with their Pundutso Musha (PDC).

The winner in the medium enterprise category was Space Advisory for their Gecko Imager, while India’s Nelito Systems Ltd came out tops in the large category for their rural credit facilities to the unbanked.

In the Management of Technology category, Brucol Global Development (Pty) Ltd was the winner among emerging enterprises, while Cura Risk Management Software (Pty) Ltd took top honours among small enterprises. The winner in the category for medium enterprises was Global Track, while Altech Netstar was the award for large companies.

In Management of People the winners were: emerging category – ThisIsMe; small category – X/Procure Software SA; medium category – Accsys (Pty) and large category – Nelito Systems Ltd.
Winners in the Management of Systems: emerging category – Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – X/Procure Software SA (Pty) Ltd; medium category – Space Advisory and large category is PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

Top honours in the Management of Innovation went to: emerging category – Brucol Global Development; small category – HearX Group; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

The winners for Overall Excellence were: emerging category – Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – HearX Group; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – PFK Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

When it came to Excellence in Sustainability the winners were: emerging category – I Am Emerge and Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd; small category – X/Procure Software SA (Pty) Ltd and Fetch Them; medium category – SSG Consulting and large category – Altech Netstar Electronics (Pty) Ltd.

A number of entrants won more than one category, such as Passion4Performance (Pty) Ltd, which came out tops among emerging companies in Overall Excellence, Excellence in Sustainability and Management of Systems.
The TT100 programme not only benefits the winners and finalists, but all participants. Everyone receives intensive, customised feedback on how they manage technology, innovation, people and systems, enabling them to improve the way they operate.

Winners and finalists becoming part of the TT100 community are invited to participate in TT100 events, including business forums held jointly with government and partners involved in promoting business innovation, particularly the DST.