Propella Business Incubator’s innovative entrepreneurs will be able to connect to the rest of the world through a dedicated 100MB fibre link, the fastest business data line in the Eastern Cape, with the launch of the Telkom FutureMakers Hub on May 11.
It is the second business incubation centre to be unveiled under FutureMakers, Telkom’s enterprise development programme, after the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town.
“Ultimately, by supporting innovation throughout the technology sector, we can create jobs, improve digital access and develop a stable and competitive supply chain,” he says.
The high-speed line will assist in accelerating the establishment of successful new businesses in the Eastern Cape.
“This fibre link will enable local tech entrepreneurs working on app development to have adequate connectivity and capacity. In addition, our advanced manufacturing enterprises will be able to share engineering files and collaborate with other entrepreneurs around the world,” says Wayne Oosthuizen, managing director of Engeli Enterprises.
Engeli manages the Propella hub in partnership with Innovolve, the commercialisation company of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).
“Having the Propella Futuremakers Hub will help keep our highly sought-after computer science and information systems graduates in the metro,” says Jaci Barnett, chief executive officer of Innovolve and chairperson of the Propella board. “It is important that we retain the skills in order to grow the economy of our city in order to create sustainable jobs,” she says.
Alumni from the mechatronics, engineering and chemistry departments are also being encouraged to stay and develop their own advanced manufacturing businesses by the support being offered at the Propella Business Incubator.
“In the converged world of what is known as Business 4.0, it is as important for manufacturers to have high-speed data connections as it is for them to have the research back-up and equipment that we provide through the Propella programme,” she says.
The same data speeds are being made available to businesses in Port Elizabeth and surrounds, according to Russell.
Other Propella sponsors include the Industrial Development Corporation, BASF and General Motors South Africa.
Propella’s objective is to support and grow local manufacturing business opportunities resulting from research and development being conducted at the NMMU. Sectors include renewable energy generation, energy efficiency and related technologies, advanced manufacturing, creative arts and textiles.
Businesses accepted into Propella are offered office and factory space and business support services. Propella can accommodate up to 10 technology start-up businesses on its premises per year, and will expose up to 1150 individuals annually to training, pre-incubation, hackathons, incubation and other entrepreneurial initiatives.
In May 2015, Telkom announced it would invest more than R100 million into FutureMakers, an initiative supporting entrepreneurship and business development within the technology sector.
Since then, the FutureMakers Fund, which provides seed capital to entrepreneurs, has invested more than R28 million in seven companies.
In addition, FutureMakers is supporting and training more than 600 entrepreneurs through business incubation programmes in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
*Photograph caption: Cutting the ribbon at the launch of the Telkom FutureMakers Hub at the Propella Business Incubator are (from left to right): Telkom Chief of Staff, Ian Russel; Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, Danny Jordaan, and NMMU Vice Chancellor, Prof Derrick Swartz.
“The heart of the FutureMakers mission is to enable, empower and inspire entrepreneurs, particularly within technology, by providing ongoing support and coaching, in order to grow young, small businesses into big businesses,” said Ian Russell, Telkom’s chief administration officer.