Accelerating Africa’s participation in healthcare innovation through reHealthAfrica
mLab Southern Africa, a technology accelerator that focusses on skills, product and enterprise development within the tech innovation economy, has announced the continuation of their partnership with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) aimed at stimulating more open innovation and development within the African Mobile Health and Wellness sector through an initiative called ReHealthAfrica.
“When we started the work on mapping and understanding the mHealth and Wellness sector last year it was clear that it presented an important opportunity for Africa, its innovators and entrepreneurs. Following a first round of co-creation and innovation work with students and industry at the end of 2016 we proved a case for further investment and we are now more determined than ever to pull together the local digital health ecosystem and see some really innovative and locally created solutions go to market,” said Derrick Kotze, CEO mLab Southern Africa,
Kotze added that vibrant ecosystems don’t work with only a hand full of partners and that the call remains open for industry, both public and private, with an interest in Health & Wellness to join the initiative.
The reHealthAfrica brand was engineered at the launch of Demola in 2016, the objectives are to accelerate South Africa’s participation and to unlock the mHealth & medTech opportunities in this rare window of economic opportunity for African innovators and start-ups.
At its launch reHealthAfrica partnered on mHealth and wellness challenges in the 2016 Winter Season of DEMOLA as a means to understand the market and innovation culture capacity for developing local solutions. This initial intervention had the following outcomes:
- A book published by the CSIR titled Strategies, Approaches and Experiences: Towards building a South African Digital Health Innovation EcosystemStrategies, Approaches andd Experiences: Towards building a South African Digital Health Innovation Ecosystem, free download available here
- Two students who participated in challenges where awarded internship opportunities at Powerhouse, a subsidiary of Innogy in Amsterdam.
- Challenge Team Medi-VR were awarded a seed grant to further develop their product after registering as a business.
- 3rd year Informatics team from UCT that participated in Demola were awarded 3rd prize in the Ernest & Young Final Year Project for their project.
- 30 Multidisciplinary Students gained exposure to real industry challenges, including the Health Sector through reHealthAfrica and developed crucial skills in innovation, presentation, project management and business relations.
The achievements met were a result of the congregated community of innovators, researchers, technologist, entrepreneurs and designers that endeavour to build and establish a vibrant Health and Wellness Innovation Ecosystem that will be the foundation of and provide the support for fledgling innovations supported by mLab Southern Africa.
“Innovations are only as strong as the ecosystem in which they are created. As such the collaboration between the Department of Science & Technology, CSIR, mLab Southern Africa, Higher Education, industry and other stakeholders will endeavour to stimulate a resilient South African mHealth and Wellness Innovation Ecosystem to ultimately benefit the people of South Africa,” states Adele Botha Principal Researcher at CSIR.
The second phase of the initiative kicks off with another season of DEMOLA, and brings together more local and international Industry, SMME’s and multidisciplinary students to develop solutions for real mHealth & Wellness challenges. Challenges and Innovation work will be hosted in both Cape Town and Johannesburg with a dedicated stream supported by reHealthAfrica.
Our main aims are to establish a vibrant community and unlock the potential of mHealth and Wellness in South Africa through innovation and entrepreneurship. To create a public lab for innovators that will lower the barrier of access to technology. To provide a systemic approach to innovation using adapted innovation techniques within the national system of innovation. And to fully commit to youth empowerment in partnership with local and international industry through co-creation opportunities,” concludes Kotze.