Geographic Inclusivity is one of the key strategic objectives of the Venture Builder (VB) as envisioned by the
Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), in partnership with the Technological Higher Education
Network South Africa (THENSA). For the VB to form a successful portfolio of deep tech start-ups that have the
potential to make a significant impact in their respective fields, it needs to tap into parts of South Africa that
have traditionally been overlooked or ignored.
What is Geographic Inclusivity
Geographic inclusivity is of paramount importance for the VB, as it not only fosters innovation but also
addresses historical disparities perpetuated by systems like apartheid spatial planning. Embracing a
geographically inclusive approach allows for the equitable distribution of opportunities and resources to
technopreneurs in previously marginalised areas. South Africa’s legacy of apartheid spatial planning has
left a lasting impact throughout the country, concentrating economic activity, technological innovation
and higher education institutions in urban centres, while isolating more remote areas. By targeting these
spatial barriers, the VB can tap into untapped talent pools and stimulate economic growth in neglected
regions. It can also increase access to funding, mentorship, and collaboration opportunities, which will
enable technopreneurs from diverse backgrounds to thrive.
By actively engaging with higher education institutions, the VB can bridge the educational divide,
nurturing local talent and helping them contribute to the global deep tech landscape. Collaborative
partnerships can lead to the establishment of innovation hubs that serve as catalysts for technological
advancement and technopreneurship. This approach not only democratises access to education, but
also ensures that deep tech solutions are developed with a broader spectrum of perspectives, benefiting
society as a whole. In essence, geographic inclusivity is not just about levelling the playing field; it’s
about harnessing the full potential of a nation’s intellectual capital to drive capacity development,
transformation and technological innovation.
The success of this initiative depends not only on its innovative ideas and robust strategies, but on the ability
of its stakeholders and participants to foster geographic inclusivity. Geographic inclusivity refers to the
practice of embracing talent, ideas, and opportunities from diverse regions and locations. In a country like
South Africa, where the legacy of apartheid spatial planning has resulted in the uneven geographic
distribution of resources, infrastructure and opportunities, it is a feature that will facilitate in making the
National System of Innovation (NSI) more inclusive.
Grassroots Innovations
For Ms Xolile Ngubane, Acting Director for Technology Station in Chemicals at Mangosuthu University of
Technology (MUT), geographic inclusivity has the “intention and practice of ensuring that all intended
stakeholders, participants and beneficiaries are accommodated irrespective of their geographic
location”. One of the primary benefits of geographic inclusivity is that it will encourage access to a
diverse and extensive talent pool which Ngubane believes is crucial. “I have witnessed that not all
innovations and ideas emanate from urban areas,” she said. “There is space for grassroots innovation
and [accessing] such can benefit the VB”.
By ensuring the VB is inclusive of technopreneurs, stakeholders, innovators, and experts from different
regions, it can tap into a wealth of knowledge, skills, and perspectives which have yet to be leveraged in
South Africa. This spirit of equal opportunity is central to the design phase of the VB, which has been
welcomed by the founding HEI stakeholders in the project like Professor Nokuthula Sibiya, the Deputy
Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagements at MUT.
“[Our institution] is in the process of setting up an Entrepreneurship Centre and Innovation Hubs so as
the DVC, I am responsible for driving these projects”, Professor Sibiya said. For the VB to ensure that it
becomes a force for change in the NSI, it must “embrace diversity so as to ensure equity irrespective of
where a person comes from”, she added. In addition, Professor Sibiya also stressed the viability of the
VB due “being equitable across all HEIs including those that have limited resources”.
Diverse Talent Pool
This diverse regional talent pool will bring fresh ideas and diverse approaches to problem-solving,
enhancing the creativity and adaptability of the spinoffs that will emanate from the VB. This is what
drew Ms Martha Ikome, Acting Senior Manager for Technology Transfer Office at the Vaal University of
Technology (VUT). “To me, geographical inclusion refers to the way borders and territories define,
facilitate participation and membership in identifiable groups”, she said. “I believe that a successful [VB] is one that has no bias and discrimination and works to ensure that there is inclusivity, especially in the
deep tech space, irrespective of their gender, ability, race and religion”, she said.
Ms Ikome mentioned that “the participatory approach of the VB was the main attraction for [her] joining the initiative”. In addition, she added that the location of her institution “poses a serious
impediment to the success of commercialising intellectual property (IP)”, rendering geographic
inclusivity a personal matter for her. “[VUT] is situated in a highly disadvantaged area which means we
do not receive enough support to be able to uplift our community”, Ms Ikome said. She also believes
that “the VB can assist by having a physical presence at [her] institution where [they can advertise] the
technopreneurs through all the VB’s networks”.
Expanding Networks
In addition, geographic inclusivity allows the VB to expand its network exponentially. As collaboration
with various technopreneurs and stakeholders from different regions occurs, the network becomes
more dynamic and robust, creating a virtuous cycle of collaboration, idea-sharing, and support. For Ms
Makole Magoro, Technology Transfer Coordinator at the University of Venda, geographic inclusivity will
give a chance for all universities, “ to be included in the VB despite the setting of either urban or rural”.
Like Ms Ikome, her university’s location played a major part in her desire to get involved in the VB and
see its success. “An institution like the University of Venda usually falls behind because of where we are
located. We miss out on many activities. I think [the VB] will help my institution keep up with other
institutions and also achieve our goals when it comes to commercialisation,” Ms Magoro said.
This expanded network can lead to valuable partnerships, strategic alliances, and access to new
markets. Geographic inclusivity can facilitate this process from the outset. By building ventures with an
inter-provincial perspective and leveraging diverse talent and insights, the VB will create deep tech
ventures that are well-positioned for expansion and scalability. This can lead to faster growth and a
broader reach for the ventures they nurture.
Geographic inclusivity is not just a trendy buzzword; it is a strategic objective that will allow the VB to
facilitate change in some of the most marginalised communities in South Africa and tackle the socioeconomic challenges that continue to get in the way of technology innovation. It is also a reminder that
access to a diverse talent pool, expertise, as well as cultural and market insights can be found in all areas
of the country, emphasising the importance of tackling our own bias and assumptions as we complete
the design phase. Dr Richard F Chidzonga, Head of Department in Electrical Engineering at MUT, put it
best when he said that geographic inclusivity ought to “give real meaning to inclusivity and growth
impetus” for technopreneurs, stakeholders, innovators, and experts.

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