The Sustainable Innovation Stellenbosch Network Forum feedback: 1st meeting

The Sustainable Innovation Stellenbosch Network Forum feedback: 1st meeting

The SISN held its first FORUM meeting on Wednesday morning the 16th February in Smulpaap restaurant in Technopark. The aim of the meeting was to introduce the members to each other and to begin the task of transformation in Technopark and Stellenbosch. Around 40 guests attended, including business persons in TP, key members of the Stellenbosch Municipality, various academics and administration staff from the University of Stellenbosch (including the US business school in Belville).

Dr. Francois Du Plessis CEO of the GreenCape initiative was the guest speaker. He was introduced by Pieter van Heyningen from Stellenbosch University, who facilitated the event. Dr. Du Plessis was able to paint a picture of what is happening on the provincial government level in terms of stimulating Green Growth. He spoke about the need and opportunity for renewable energy in the province, and gave an indication about the dire energy situation South Africa finds itself in. He reminded us, that these energy issues will be affecting businesses and individuals in the near future if we continue using only conventional energy sources. The GreenCape initiative is an effort from a government level to try and bring industry, businesses and universities closer toward a common goal of producing renewable energies and sustainable technologies in the province. Their role is to help facilitate dialogue between various stakeholders and clear any blockages to progress including legislative hurdles. Dr. Du Plessis mentioned that their intent is to help foster and stimulate similar initiatives to the SISN in the province and would be supportive of the initiative in Technopark and Stellenbosch.

What needs to happen now, is an interpretation of how the SISN can collaborate with the GreenCape in terms of positioning itself as a strategic platform for communication together with the Technopark Owners Association – which recently set up a sub-committee to deal with the matter together with the SISN coordinator.

It was clear from the first event that the purpose and goals of the SISN need to be shaped by the members themselves as various members expected different uses for the network. This was to be expected due to the heterogeneity of the group. The various members’ expectations could be summarized as follows:

i) Networking for Sustainability ii) The Greening and Transformation of Technopark iii) Business level interests in innovation, collaboration and sustainable business opportunities.

These interests will become the objectives of the Network from now on an in the future, but will be subject to continuous refining. From an organizational perspective the SISN also represents an opportunity for individuals to share a common voice for transformation of Technopark and Stellenbosch, to engage with other institutions, to raise funds, awareness and jumpstart various projects.

The leadership of the SISN after getting some feedback from the Forum has decided to initiate the first projects in line with the above expectations including i) Creating Forum discussions and networking opportunities online on www.technopark.co.za and http://blogs.sun.ac.za/sisn (To be launched soon) and the continuation of the Forum meetings – now proposed to continue as a wine evening. ii) The first greening project is to tackle the state of the dams in TP. iii) For the TPOA and the SISN to sign a Formal Mode of Agreement with the University and the Municipality as a dedicated declaration of intent of working in collaboration for the transformation of Technopark and Stellenbosch towards a Sustainable Trajectory.

If you are interested in joining the SISN (Free) contact Pieter.vanheyningen@spl.sun.ac.za or if you would like any further information on innovation for sustainability.