In 2009, The Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the University of the Free State (UFS) initiated a project to assess the feasibility of a Science and Innovation Park as well as prepare a business plan for the envisaged park in Bloemfontein. Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) formed an integral part of the process, amongst others, via the Regional Innovation Forum of the Free State (RIFFS) for which it acts as a custodian.
On 11 February 2014, RIFFS hosted a workshop at CUT to discuss the feasibility report and further developmental strategies. Amongst the attendees who presented at the workshop were: Mr Gerard Verhoef, consultant appointed by UFS; Prof. Christo Viljoen, a retired Vice-Rector from Stellenbosch University and International Science Park expert; and Prof. Ryk Lues, RIFFS coordinator, CUT; Mr Jonathan Smith, UFS Innovation Office; and Prof. Laetus Lategan, Dean: Research and Innovation at CUT.
In a brief interview with Ryk Lues, RIFFS coordinator, and Professor in Environmental Health at CUT, he had this to say…
What is a Science and Innovation Park?
A Science and Innovation Park is an area with a suitable facilities and a collection of professional people dedicated to scientific research on a business footing.
Who normally operates the Science parks?
Science parks are usually operated by institutions of higher education, and Silicon Valley in the United States is a good example.
What is the purpose of a Science and Innovation Park?
The purpose is to enhance collaboration between academia, industry and government to stimulate innovation and to promote the economic development and competitiveness of cities and regions by creating new business, adding value to companies and creating new knowledge based jobs and regional wealth.
The aim of the park is to facilitate the establishment, incubation and commercialisation of innovative ideas from all sectors in the province including education, business/industry and government and ultimately improve the socio-economic wellbeing of the region.
Where will the park be located and why?
The quality of place includes all features of the physical environment and qualities of life that make a location a desirable, competitive and economically vibrant place to live. Given the stakeholders and the virtual nature of the Free State Science and Innovation Park, it may constitute either the establishment of facilities such as buildings or a virtual collection of innovation stakeholders. The name “Fuama Village” – which means to incubate or nurture – have been proposed for the Science and Innovation Park.
The planned CUT Innovation Centre and UFS Business Incubator are the ideal anchor tenants of a possible common space to allow development and growth of the project in a long run and be in close proximity to the largest stakeholders, especially the main service providers and innovation feeders. The possible location of the park should be based on understanding the critical success factors of establishing a business incubator.
Who are the beneficiaries?
The aim of the initiative is not only to benefit/promote UFS or CUT but is seen as a benefit towards the city of Bloemfontein, local Agriculture, Trade and Industry, the Free State Province, central region of South Africa and the community at large.
The outcome of the event indicated a definite need for such a park, and future strategies will focus on the allocation of resources for the further implementation of the initiative. Apart from the mentioned speakers, the event was well attended by representatives from education sector including FET colleges, business/industry and government.
Issued by the CUT