Spurring digital innovation through collaboration

April 12th, 2018, Published in Articles: Energize, Articles: EngineerIT, Articles: Vector

Amongst well-established innovations in robotics, drives, control systems and energy solutions at the recent ABB Customer World Africa 2018, a new drive for local innovation bloomed as ABB signed an agreement with the University of the Witwatersrand technology centre, known as the Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct. The memorandum of understanding (moU), which was signed at a stakeholder event on 11 April, stipulates donations and support mechanisms which ABB will offer to Tshimologong.

Signing of the MoU (from left): Prof. Barry Dwolatzky and Prof. Tawana Kupe, Wits; with Leon Viljoen, Dr Chun Yuan Gu, Claudio Facchin, and Sami Atiya, ABB.

Leon Viljoen, ABB Southern Africa MD, spoke at the signing and said that a prime aspect of Industry 4.0 is that it opens the way for innovative entrepreneurs to become part of a supply chain to large players. He said that ABB wants to see young entrepreneurs getting assistance in the development of their digital innovation ideas – an activity which Tshimologong offers through their incubation programme. Prof. Tawana Kupe, WITS acting vice-chancellor, said that the partnership with ABB is not just a “donation”, but an affirmation of the vision of the innovation precinct.

The Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct is the brainchild of Prof. Barry Dwolatzky, who heads up the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University. He started the precinct with the aim of being the “go-to place” for people with innovative ideas. “People in California know where to go if they need support and funding for a new technological idea – Silicon Valley. First world countries have options. Now we do too – people in Johannesburg have a safe ecosystem in which to develop their ideas”. While the precinct is part of Wits, it is not on the university campus as it is open to all – not just Wits students. The Tshimologong building is another project in itself. Situated in Braamfontein, it was previously a dilapidated building in a run-down area. Now, the area has been uplifted, making it safer, more popular, and creating employment for people in the area.

The event closed with the official signing of the MoU by stakeholders from Wits, Tshimologong, and ABB.