University tech fund approves investments worth R28m

Last week the University Technology Fund (UTF) authorised one other funding right into a college start-up firm, taking the full quantity invested since February to R28.1 million.

This is in line with UTF co-founder Daniel Strauss, who mentioned the fund has now authorised seven investments into college corporations this yr – together with from the University of Cape Town (UCT), the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and Stellenbosch University (SU).


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These start-ups emerge from universities throughout the nation and look to commercialise the analysis, expertise, or improvements created by the establishment.

Read: Relook free increased schooling for all, says OECD

The fund additionally obtained 80 funding proposals from 10 totally different South African universities, together with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), the University of Pretoria (UP) and Rhodes University (RU).

Raising tens of millions

It was formally arrange on January 31 and is an initiative of the SA SME Fund, which made an unique funding of R150 million. According to a press launch, the fund has raised R230 million this yr and is aiming to safe extra.

“We are targeting R375 million by 31 July [2021],” mentioned Strauss.

The UTF’s core intention is to commercialise expertise and mental property from South African universities, and in line with its web site is the primary of its form on the continent.

For Strauss, it’s because funding into college expertise and mental property is a brand new asset class that has solely simply began to realize consideration around the globe.

“It’s new. Even Oxford [University], who is ranked as number one in the world, only started in 1999 and they only started with a £4 million fund,” he mentioned.


BioCODE, a beneficiary of an authorised UTF funding, is a biotechnology firm that researches inflammatory illnesses.

The spin-off firm from SU created sensing expertise which medical medical doctors can use to detect illness threat in sufferers, in line with its web site.

BioCODE analysis and designer engineer Este Burger mentioned SU has filed patents for the corporate, which might be licensed to BioCODE.

“Within the next two years BioCODE plans to commercialise two novel inflammatory biomarker rapid tests for the early detection of disease and disease risk,” mentioned Burger.


The UTF additionally authorised an funding into Phagoflux, originating from SU, which goals to supply expertise for autophagy monitoring for the pharmaceutical trade. Such expertise will quantify and monitor illnesses comparable to diabetes and most cancers, mentioned Ben Loos, CEO of Phagoflux.

“With the latest UTF investment, Phagoflux plans to refine its current prototype device, so that it can be introduced to the research and pharma space,” Loos mentioned.

“The existing technology, which is a result of 10 years’ research, includes patents and a prototype device – that forms the basis and point of departure of our immediate work. We foresee however that new laboratory space will be required once our first device goes into production on a larger scale.”

The UTF has additionally made authorised investments into Cape Bio Pharms from UCT, and Hyrax Biosciences from UWC.

This yr, each corporations have created expertise that’s utilized in Covid-19 testing kits nationally and internationally in line with their web sites.

Broader developments

Ela Romanowska, director of innovation assist at Wits Enterprise, an organization owned by Wits that focuses on the commercialisation of its mental property, mentioned the college has established six spin-out corporations in complete.

“We have a pipeline of seven potential spin-offs which could be established in the next 12 months, dependent on raising funding, progress to establish key commercial partnerships, etcetera,” she mentioned, including that no corporations had been established this yr.

According to Romanowska, Wits has fewer spin-out corporations in contrast with UCT or SU as a result of they each began spinning out corporations earlier. Wits’s first spin-out firm was established in 2013.

Romanowska mentioned that along with exterior funding, Wits Enterprise had spent R4.5 million on seed funding for spin-off corporations this yr.

“This went to seven innovations, most of which support expanded product portfolios of existing spin-offs, or provide technology feasibility and market inputs for the creation of new ones,” she mentioned.

Meanwhile, Anita Nel, chief director of innovation and enterprise growth, mentioned in November that SU had secured R26 million from outdoors traders to assist 5 new start-up companies.

One of those corporations has a turnover of about R100 million a yr and one other has seen its turnover enhance from R6 million to R24 million over three years mentioned Nel.

Listen to Nompu Siziba’s interview with ProfessorTawana Kupe from the University of Pretoria:

* Michael Brown is a Moneyweb intern.


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