UK and South Africa to collaborate on innovation projects across the water, energy, and food nexus

In an exciting initiative to foster international collaboration and innovation called Scaling Out For Impact (SOFI-2), Innovate UK, in partnership with Technology Innovation Agency (TIA), recently hosted a partnership workshop in Limpopo, South Africa. A delegation of fourteen UK SMMEs travelled to Limpopo to participate in the workshop alongside a South African delegation of nineteen SMMEs.

Posted on: 04/06/2024
Global Alliance Africa SOFI group of delegates, UK South Africa 2024

Commitment for innovative solutions

The primary aim of the trip, and the SOFI-2 project itself, is to foster UK-SA partnerships to jointly develop innovative projects addressing the nexus across the water, energy and food sectors to ensure wide reaching impact for communities. The focus is to develop projects that not only drive innovation but also inclusive development with the ultimate goal to see a positive impact in key sectors critical for sustainable development. Funding for the SOFI-2 programme is contributed by Innovate UK and TIA, respectively. The partnerships will work together in submitting a Collaborative Research and Development (CR&D) project aimed at co-creating innovation solutions for the local market. Innovate UK and TIA are committed to funding up to ten of the most promising proposals targeting last-mile delivery challenges in communities across the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga.

Meaningful collaborations

The delegation consisting of a diverse group of UK and SA SMMEs, embarked on a mission to explore synergies and form strategic bilateral partnerships. By leveraging each other’s experience, expertise and resources, the aim was to enable the formation of interesting, and in some cases unlikely, partnerships through a series of partnership building and ideation exercises. The group were encouraged to dig deeper into the problem and understanding of the meaning of ‘nexus’ while trying to forge meaningful collaborations. It stretched the SMMEs to really understand where the nexus occurs and the infinite possibilities from different partnerships. Members of the delegation gave feedback:

Very helpful format for getting proper networking. The ‘nexus’ approach was really a useful way of getting different groups to form that may not have come together.

[we] really got some good connections through the programme. [The SA partner] and I are looking at other options now together, so a lasting partnership was created.

The group also visited farms of different sizes and scale locally to understand the challenges and opportunities first-hand. The immersive nature of the workshop led to intensive and exciting discussions across the three days to identify common goals and possible areas of collaboration and to form strong, equal, and trusted based relationships.

This programme has literally blown my mind. I have been on other programmes and this for what it is doing in terms of networks, building partnerships, building innovation, and looking at the verticality between the commercial and the last mile and the nexus, oh my goodness! Thank you so much.

The people and community you have assembled here is incredible. The qualifications, the expertise, even if we don’t get the funding, we are still going to extrapolate so much from the expertise.

– Delegate, Global Alliance Africa, Scaling Out For Impact (SOFI-2)

Long lasting impact

The collaboration between UK SMMEs and South African partners marks a significant step towards creating affordable and scalable solutions that can have a lasting impact on local communities. As the world continues to face complex challenges, initiatives like these underscore the importance of, and possibilities from, international collaborations and the role of innovation in driving positive change.

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This Innovate UK Global Alliance Africa 6-year (2019-2025) project funded by UK International Development aims to build new and stronger UK-African partnerships to maximise the creation of inclusive market access, funding and investment opportunities through innovation knowledge transfer between the UK, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

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