Tech boost for SA medical wearable market

CSIR offices in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
CSIR offices in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town – A new partnership between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and mLab Southern Africa aims to boost health technologies through wearable devices.

The two organisations plan to focus on economic health sector opportunities,  Derrick Kotze, chief executive of mLab Southern Africa told Fin24.

“Apart from stimulating this sector, the intent is to study the ecosystem and identify opportunities for further direct investment and building out funding models for more stakeholders and partners to consider and invest in,” he said.

Local startups who require help can apply to the organisations for assistance.

“Startups with a need for R&D (research and development) capacity can submit a challenge which can be facilitated by the mLab through the Demola season,” said Kotze.

“The Demola drives a specific IP (intellectual property) creation process. Students that participate own the solution IP, with the industry partner having the first right of refusal on purchasing a non-exclusive license. The student innovators retain the right to partner with the industry partner or continue to commercialise their IP as a newly established startup,” he added.

Kotze said that the partnership was also looking beyond South Africa’s borders to grow the industry on a continental and global basis.

“We want to make sure this ecosystem is fluid enough to meet the current as well as future opportunities and challenges and we have the benefit of international best practice while adapting it to local relevant and immediate growth opportunities.”

“While not unique to global programmes this does bring an underutilised and proven model to our market that focuses on IP creation as an asset vs the traditional product development or commercialisation through incubation. It is premised on solution validation by industry and user,” Kotze told Fin24.

He argued that the $3bn value in the medical wearable technology market positioned the organisations to exploit growth estimated at 17.8% over the next four years.

“This is just one of the opportunities in mHealth and wellness which also includes, data and analytical tools, virtual reality, robotics, apps, fashion and more and it offers local innovators and start-ups a gap to become market leaders in a new economic sector,” said Kotze.

“Our vision with this partnership is to accelerate South Africa’s participation in this rare window of economic opportunity.”

Economic opportunities

READ: Smart machines to increasingly take control of our lives

Research firm Gartner said that by 2018, it expects that half of consumers will use smartphones or wearables for mobile payments.

Gartner research also said that by 2017, wearables will become inconspicuous and use case devices like fitness trackers will outsell smart watches.

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