Cape Town recognised for tech growth prospects

Johannesburg - Cape Town is not only regarded as one of the world's top holiday spots, but it has also been listed as a future growth hub for technology and life sciences.

A study from global corporate real estate services and consulting firm T3 Advisors and Brandeis International Business School has earmarked Cape Town as one of seven cities across the globe poised for significant growth in technology and life sciences.

The study aims to provide leaders at technology and life sciences firms with forward looking recommendations on the best the “cities of tomorrow” based on key data and analysis of their competitive advantages.

Cape Town joins the likes of Be’er Sheva in Israel, Campinas in Brazil, Chengdu in China, Istanbul in Turkey, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Santiago in Chile as being among key technology and life science centres.

“Our study looked broadly into the question of what characteristics are critical to technology companies looking to grow and expand in global markets,” T3 Advisors and Brandeis International Business School told Fin24 in an email.

“The purpose of the study was not to highlight the existing tech and life sciences hubs like Boston and Paris but rather to identify new frontiers that have potential talent and an attractive quality of life.

“Cape Town stood out because of a combination of factors including - favourable business climate, skilled talent particularly engineering, an emerging start-up culture, excellent infrastructure, presence of quality institutions of higher education, favourable rents in a global context (25% of the San Francisco Bay Area) and particularly in contrast to Johannesburg,” said the two organisations.

The study further highlighted how Cape Town’s combination of engineering talent and an emerging start-up cluster are the seeds for potential tech expansion.

With regard to life sciences, the researchers said Cape Town ranks highly because the “University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University have concentrations of students with a combination of medical training (UCT Medical School) and engineering skills that can be tapped by companies looking for that talent”.

“The Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town is an internationally recognised center of excellence that has a great pioneering reputation dating back to Christian Barnard and the first heart transplant and before,” the researchers told Fin24.

Silicon Cape

Alexandra Fraser - an entrepreneur who heads up Stone Tree Consulting and chairperson of the non-profit Silicon Cape Initiative - explained to Fin24 why Cape Town ticks the right boxes when it comes to life sciences and technology.

Silicon Cape is a community of over 9 000 registered tech entrepreneurs, developers, creatives, angel investors, and venture capitalists who focus on entrepreneurship and the role it plays in South Africa.

And Silicon Cape's Fraser, who also has a degree in molecular biology, said that a lot of work was done in the early 2000s to build up a biotech cluster in Cape Town.

South Africa’s Medical Research Council is also based in Cape Town while the city is also a strong centre for marine and industrial biotech, said Fraser.

When it comes to technology, the city has a very active start-up community and investor scene with the likes of AngelHub Ventures and Knife Capital.

Fraser said that leading academic institutes such as UCT and Stellenbosch University also boost the local technology business environment.

Meanwhile, local government is also supportive of Cape Town’s start-up scene and dedicated to the likes of fibre broadband roll-outs, said Fraser.

"It's also an ecosystem, it's a network, it's people willing to share knowledge and expertise. People willing to collaborate; people willing to really work together which I think is one of Cape Town's strengths,” Fraser told Fin24.

"And of course it's a really beautiful place to live,” Fraser said.

Fraser added that many Cape Town start-ups open offices in Johannesburg, which is South Africa’s financial heartland.

But founders involved in internet and technology start-ups can also work from anywhere, with Cape Town becoming a magnet for these types of businesses.

"If you are building a tech based business and all you need is a laptop and internet connection and you don't have to sit in Joburg, you can sit in one of the most beautiful cities in the world and work from here and just catch a plane,” Fraser said.

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