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South Africa’s IT gurus will ultimately get the opportunity to become a component of the worldwide technological community subsequent to Google unveiling the establishment of its cutting edge technology start-up incubator in Cape Town.
The world’s number one online company has asked tech innovators residing in South Africa to participate in their six-month Umbono programme, a new pilot programme for Google that will, if successful, be carried out in other countries.
The programme is going to act as a springboard when it comes to tech entrepreneurs, transforming their computer- or mobile-based creative ideas directly into business enterprises.
Umbono (isiZulu, meaning “vision” or “idea”) will give successful applicants with approximately R173 000 (US$25 000) and R346 000 ($50 000) in equity start up funds, in addition to free work space at Hub Cape Town, business training, free bandwidth, mentorship as well as the means to access expertise, networking and marketing events to assist the participant grow and develop.
As reported by a Google press release, the programme’s main focus is to encourage and support growth throughout the South African developer community. Google is at the same time attempting to make the internet available to a lot more people in Africa as a result of this programme.
The selected groups definitely will reap the benefits of a mentor base consisting of local and international industry professionals. Team members will have to be in a position to legally live and work in South Africa to be able to be eligible.
Umbono’s programme manager Johanna Kollar explained the mentor base is an essential component of the initiative. Industry professionals will offer assistance and guidance on subject areas including product design, commercialisation, legal incorporation and valuation.
Kollar added the fact that experts, whom she refers to as Googlers, are going to take part on a volunteer basis.
“Our Googlers coming from all over the world, who will be volunteering their time, are generally enthusiastic about technology in Africa and will also be in a position to give support to teams with the issues they encounter, whether it be relating to product, business or technical front,” she explained.
Cape Town is Africa’s technology capital
The Mother City ended up being selected as the incubator’s base of operations for the reason that it is quickly becoming Africa’s very own Silicon Valley. The city has, in the past few years, positioned itself as being a centre of innovation and technology as a consequence of projects most notably the Silicon Cape Foundation, an IT networking body which happens to be working together with Google in running Umbono.
Foundation board member Justin Spratt suggested the programme will provide technology enthusiasts the chance they require to learn and grow. “There quite a bit of natural talent and enthusiasm for technology in Cape Town, and several concepts only require that window of opportunity,” said Spratt.
Bandwidth Barn, a Cape Town-based business incubator, have also been brought on board. Together with the Silicon Cape Foundation, Bandwidth Barn is there to offer help and support to the chosen groups as well as to guarantee they make the most out of their six months.
The city in addition boasts highly regarded tertiary institutes, particularly the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, which happen to have formidable IT courses adn programs.
For Kollar, Cape Town provides the ingredients that enable it to be the perfect environment to operate a tech-based company. She added that at this moment in time there are no plans to expand the incubator to other areas.
Making reference to local start-ups such as Yola, MXit and Twangoo, Google South Africa’s country manager Luke Mckend stated that this energetic tech scene applied not only to Cape Town, but also the entire country.
“Google’s latest investment with Umbono is an excellent expansion of our overall strategy in the region to bolster the web ecosystem,” stated McKend.
There is still have time to apply for up and coming tech gurus
The selection committee is going to consist of angel investors – those individuals that ordinarily invest their own personal money into start-ups – and Google employees, who will subsequently select the individuals based upon a variety of specifications and requirements including the feasiblility of the business idea, applicability and suitability to regional and global needs, as well as the ability to bring the idea from concept to execution.
The first round of application will be ending on the 15th of April. Having said that, the website is going to continu to accept applications past the deadline. Kollar stated that the application process will continue to remain open year-round for the reason that individuals always have good ideas.
She described the prospective successful applicants as enthusiastic and passionate when it comes to technology and dedicated to their business idea, explaining the fact that they needs to be prepared to see their idea through to the prototype and, thereafter, utilize their particular technical skills to drive the product to the next level.
“Beyond that, groups will need to have the vision to scale their prototype or product to a regional or global business,” she explained.
She revealed that Google intends to select a minimum of five teams for this year’s programme, however added that this number would be determined by the quality of the teams coupled with interest coming from the angel investors, who will acquire a 10% share in the business in return for their financial contribution.
According to the Google website, the programme prefers teams to apply despite the fact that individuals are allowed. Having said that, individuals are discouraged from making an application if they do not possess a computer programming prior experience, which happens to be one of many requirements.
Candidates are permitted to submit several ideas but are encouraged to submit one formidable idea instead simply because it will probably stand a better possibility of being successful.
South African fuel producer Sasol has become the first company in the world to gain approval from international aviation authorities for use of its fully synthetic jet fuel in commercial airliners. Sasol produces its fuels from coal and natural gas and is the world’s only commercial user of the proprietary coal to liquids (CTL) process used to make the jet fuel.
Sasol CTL, as it is known, underwent a testing process that spanned several years before getting the green light from aviation fuel specification authorities. Among these are the British Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for Def Stan (Defence Standard) 91-91 – this governs the requirements for kerosene jet fuel. Other stakeholders – including engine and airframe manufacturers, airlines, relevant oil companies, and bodies such as the International Air Transport Association – were also part of the approval process
Sasol CE Pat Davies says, “Approval by the international aviation fuel authorities recognises the absolute need to develop aviation fuel from feedstocks other than crude oil in order to meet the world’s growing needs.”
For almost a decade Sasol has provided jet fuel that consists partly of a CTL component and partly of kerosene derived from crude oil.
Sasol CTL has now been officially classed as Jet A-1 fuel, which is fuel for jet and turbo-prop-engined aircraft. Jet A is the standard aviation fuel in the United States and is only available there, while Jet A-1, which is similar but has a lower freezing point, is sanctioned for use elsewhere in the world.
In the US, ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, publishes the ASTM D1655 specification for aviation turbine fuels. It is expected that the latest version of the standard will include the Sasol CTL synthetic jet fuel. ASTM International is one of the largest voluntary standards development organisations in the world.
Helping the environment
Tests have shown that emissions from Sasol’s jet fuels are lower than those of similar fuel derived from coal, because of the lower sulphur content. This has positive implications for the environment.
The technology also signifies a move away from the use of crude oil as a fuel source. Alternative fuels are the subject of intensive research because of the high cost of crude, and Sasol’s technology can be applied not only to coal but also to gas and biomass. In the context of energy sources biomass refers most often to plant material, but can equally apply to material of animal origin. Either way, it is carbon-based.
Countries with high reserves of coal and natural gas will be able to turn these reserves into valuable income using Sasol’s environmentally benign technology. According to Sasol the world has proven coal reserves of an estimated 985-billion tons, with the largest known reserves being in the US, Russia, China, India, Australia, Germany and South Africa. Sasol plans to make its unique technology available internationally.
While current approval only applies to jet fuel produced at Sasol’s Secunda, Mpumalanga, plant, the company intends submitting applications for approval for its Oryx GTL (gas to liquid) plant in Qatar and its GTL plant in Nigeria. The latter is a joint venture with Chevron, parent company of Caltex.
In addition, Sasol is considering potential CTL ventures in the US, China and India which will also fall under the approval process. Its partner in India will be the Tata Group.
Converting coal to liquid energy
The coal to liquids process involves three stages. In the gasification stage the coal is turned into raw gas, which is then purified into a synthesis gas for the next stage. The second stage involves a process known as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. The conversion takes place in a unique low-temperature Fischer-Tropsch Slurry Phase Reactor developed by Sasol, which can produce between 2 500 and 17 000 barrels per day. Here the synthesis gas is converted into heavy hydrocarbons in the presence of a catalyst, typically based on iron and cobalt.
Finally, the products of stage two are upgraded depending on the final product required – these range from automotive and aviation fuels and waxes to high-grade lubricants. Upgrades include various chemical processes, as well as refining through a conventional petroleum refinery.
Sasol has stated that it has the strategic intent to be a world leader in Fischer-Tropsch chemistry.
Reducing South Africa’s dependence on crude
Sasol was established in 1950 to protect South Africa, which does not have its own crude oil reserves, from incurring heavy costs due to increasing crude oil imports. Major milestones in the company’s history include the production of its first automotive fuel in 1955, and the establishment in 1990 of its first international marketing company, Sasol Chemicals Europe. This paved the way for Sasol’s extensive globalisation programme.
Today Sasol has operations in more than 20 countries and exports its products to more than 100. In addition to its CTL evaluations in China, India and the US, the company is currently working with the South African government on exploring the feasibility of an 80 000 barrels-per-day facility in South Africa.
Cape Town – The government is to focus on innovation to bring about job creation when the Department of Trade and Industry releases a new industrial policy in January.
Briefing the media today on the progress made by the Economic Sectors and Employment Cluster, the Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel said that if the country hoped to recapture a production foothold, it had to do this by either developing new products or new processes to make products in a better and more affordable way.
Patel said the new policy, the Industrial Policy Action Plan, would lean on lessons learnt from the government’s previous sector interventions, while targeting certain economic sectors for relief.
The country’s manufacturing volume was back to the 2004 level and the country needed to avoid the pressures of deindustrialisation, he said.
“We are asking hard questions, they should not be broad ideals, they should be implementative plans,” said Patel of the new planned industrial policy.
Government is looking to see how the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) can be used more productively to assist in the innovation of products specifically clothing, vehicle production and green jobs to ensure South Africa maintained long-term sustainable advantages.
Patel said the new strategy would require changes to the government’s research and development (R&D) incentives and human resource strategy.
He said the lesson of China, which he termed the “big story of industrial production this century”, and other Asian countries demonstrated the importance innovation could play in driving economic growth.
China had started with very basic production but was able to move rapidly up the value-chain, from simple to more sophisticated products, this while their speed to market to get goods off the factory floor and into foreign stores had been radically improved, he said.
The Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor said the government was looking at ways of developing medicines and cosmetics from indigenous knowledge, this while a ministerial team was considering how to create more green jobs. –