Lindelwa Badi and Cleopatra Dube | 02 September 2017

A piece about SMMEs being the solution to STEMI’s unemployment and lack of jobs in general, by exploring new science and re-evaluating the so-called used up science to advance South Africa’s development.

South Africa has a high residue of graduates, including scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians and various other innovators (STEMIs). Science on its own began as (wo)men’s quest for knowledge, to make sense of their environment and themselves in it.  It is more predominant now, in the 21st century that the very essence of science has been compromised by a big industrial complex which requires STEMIs to be tailor-made for employment by it. Thus, affecting the curriculum and research in institutions of higher learning and in a sense limiting the advancement of science in general. As such, science has become stagnant and STEMIs lab-rats. The pace and direction at which science is moving is being dictated by this complex of industries. The progression of science in South Africa is thus leaving people behind. The number of people still living in starvation regardless of the advancement of GMF technologies is a good example of how science is not reaching South Africans.

Instead of being and producing STEMIs for big companies, let’s be and make STEMIs that are self-sustainable and self-sufficient. This can be done by bringing forth new ideas/technologies and turning them into monetary value in terms of SMMEs (Small, medium and micro-sized enterprises) which would employ the STEMIs themselves and the general community members.  STEMIs in this way will own their ideas/inventions and make a living out of them while doing the good that they would’ve intended to do with those ideas/inventions, instead of waiting to be employed by bigger industrial companies.

SMMEs would thrive because STEMIs normally don’t have advanced business skills, as such they would learn as they grow and as a result gain accumulative advantage in entrepreneurship. STEMIs would also broaden and bring about a great deal of diversity to the economic space as they would not embark on the same ideas meaning they would not saturate the business industry.

As it stands, the research that STEMIs conduct these days should be to benefit the community thus even their research topics and investigative questions ought to emphasize such benefits. A good example of a research topic that emphasizes community benefit and allows for STEMIs to successfully venture into SMMEs would be one which is not so ambitious but very crucial such that it requires use of readily available resources. This kind of topic would be modelled such that it enables the community to evolve with the resultant technology. Furthermore, such research could then be applied through the registration of an SMME where assistance in running the business will be rendered by peer STEMIs and community members without a high dependence of funding from the big industrial complex. This is to avoid big companies buying the technology and dictating the good and accessibility of the product. A model would assist in achieving an advanced SA whereby science, STEMIs and the community are moving together. 

This piece and the STEMIs business model were originally written as proposals for science talks at the SFSA. the business model is a follow-up to STEMIs hire yourselves.

Business Model

Mnoneleli Govuzela and Masivuye Mahleba |02 September 2017

STEMI X has an idea to make the world a better place; however, he/she needs to take this idea out of the lab to make this product a reality. STEM X does not want to approach the Big Industrial Complex; he/she would like to begin a business that will employ him and his fellow STEMIs while creating jobs for the community. How does he/she go about doing this?

This model will answer this question while creating a roadmap for this STEMI to make his/her business a success. Generally, STEMI have minimal knowledge of business but is equipped with analytical, problem solving, production skills etc. so he/she will quickly learn the ins and outs of the business world. But where does STEMI begin?

  • Get out of the lab with the idea, it has already been tried, tested and has potential.
  • Confirm with the market the relevance and demand of the product.
  • Patent your idea.
  • Register a company.
  • Find appropriate investors from the networking you have done during your research.
  • Get investors to provide funding, partnership and not buy you out of the business or steal your idea.
  • Consider grants that the government provides, so you are not limited to private investors only.
  • STEMIs should then raise their own capital so that they own a large portion of their business.
  • Develop yourself as an entrepreneur by reading up and attending conferences, talks, training sessions and lectures on how to be a business orientated and run successful SMMEs

External factors – These factors are not dependent on the STEMI, but have a negative effect on the STEMI. In an ideal world, these factors will be catered for to make innovation/technology commercialization easier, but this is not the case. However, it is still possible for STEMIs to start and run successful businesses in the absence of these factors.

  •  Developing a culture of business within STEMIs, this can be done by introducing entrepreneurship on the undergraduate curriculum.
  • Part of the research grants that STEMIs get when doing their research should be dedicated towards possible commercialization of their innovation/technology.
  • Include a commercialization plan in your research proposal.
  • Produce TECHNOLOGIES to advance SCIENCE with the purpose of creating businesses and new industries.
  • Have virtual businesses for STEMIs