Caption: Participants in the UKZN InQubate ENSPIRE Bootcamp & Invest Den with judges Prof David Spurrett (front), Erick Sithole (right), Malindi Kunene (2nd right) and Suvina Singh (2nd left)



UKZN InQubate hosted a highly contested Business Pitching event called Invest Den in October 2018. The initiative was a partnered event between UKZN InQubate and the Technology Innovation Agency.

A call for applications was opened to all UKZN students in early September 2018 and 41 student business ideas were entered into the pool. The student cohort of businesses were taken through an intensive entrepreneurial development programme using the Kawasaki Pitch Deck.


This culminated in a weekend Entrepreneurship Boot Camp on the 20th October with the business pitch event taking place on the 22nd October, show casing the top 10 candidates. UKZN Inqubate’s Director, Ms Suvina Singh, outlined the Student Entrepreneurship Skills Programme, ENSPIRETM, geared at stimulating economic activity and enhancing job creation. Ms  Singh iterated that the commitment of the students that entered the programme in terms of their entrepreneurial development was so high that all 30 participants would receive preliminary business support from UKZN InQubate.


First place at the Invest Den went to SmartiPants (Pty) Ltd, who beat 29 teams at the intensive Boot Camp Weekend with their innovative mechatronics and robotics workshops geared at promoting Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering for learners. Co-founder and Managing Director of SmartiPants, Ms Nonjabulo Gasa, said they are a group of Civil, Mechanical, Electronic, Computer Science Engineering students who not only empower communities with fourth industrial revolutions skills, but offer professional engineering consulting too.


Gasa highlighted running masterclasses on drone technology for 120 learners at the very first UBER Innovation Master Class in Durban for Qhakaza Girl IT. ‘They assembled their own drones, which actually flew, so right now, in Umlazi, Thabo and Sindi know how to assemble and build their own drones!’ she said. SmartiPants are finalists in the Maritime Challenge powered by Transnet, ORACLE and Innovate Durban: ‘We have actually solved a problem in the maritime sector already – we currently have a prototype right now which will use virtual reality to automate cranes in the Durban Port’ said Gasa.


The team of engineering and science boffins who won R200 000 at Invest Den took the opportunity to announce they have also been selected by Care For Education which is the Lego Foundation from the internationally renowned toy building brick company through Lego, to co-facilitate the first township World Robot Olympiad for Durban in 2019! Second prize was scooped by Siyakha Roofing Solutions – valued at R 150 000, and Clinalytics Solutions, which looks at easily accessible health records for GPs operating in rural communities, was awarded R100 000 for coming third.


Student teams ranked between 4th and 10th place each received R80 000 business development funding. UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, emphasised the role universities should play in addressing economic growth and unemployment in South Africa. ‘It’s not just about producing graduates,’ said Ramjugernath, ‘It’s about producing graduates who are fit for purpose and make meaningful contributions to society.