Photo: Reel Gardening, Winner SAB Foundation Innovation Award

The SAB Foundation Invests in Social Innovation

By Nicola Jowell, SAB Foundation

The SAB Foundation Invests in Social Innovation

The inaugural SAB Foundation Innovation Awards recently recognised innovators who are helping improve the lives of low-income South Africans. The Awards are part of the SAB Foundation’s focus on igniting a culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa as a source of economic growth, job creation and innovation.

The awards aim to showcase and scale commercialisable pro-poor innovations that address a challenge faced by the SAB Foundation’s identified beneficiary groups (women, youth, people living with disabilities and people living in rural areas).

An open competition puts innovators and their innovation through a rigorous, phased adjudication process. In the end, investments are made into those innovations which are innovative, scalable and can be commercialised with the end purpose of reaching and improving the lives of as many of the SAB Foundation’s identified beneficiary groups as possible.

The winner of the inaugural SAB Foundation Innovation Awards 2011 was Reel Gardening, whose community gardening product, Garden in a Box received an investment of R1 million. The SAB Foundation will invest in six or more production machines to increase capacity, raw materials, staff and a distribution vehicle in order to take Garden in a Box to designated rural schools and communities.

Reel Gardening is owned by 25 year-old Claire Reid, who created a handmade vegetable planting strip made from biodegradable paper. Each vegetable strip is water soluble, contains fertiliser and non-modified seeds and includes a set of seed growing factors to maximise the germination rate.

Reid created the simplistic yet revolutionary product when she was only 16. Nine years later, Reel Gardening has grown into a fully-fledged business marketing its products to retail and corporate clients. But at the heart of her business is its support of community based gardens throughout South Africa. Reid has a developed a Garden in a Box for schools and communities in low income areas. This helps to address food security concerns and provides a sustainable income for the communities growing the garden.

Two runners-up, ShonaQuip and The Invoice Exchange received R500 000 each.

ShonaQuip designs and manufactures innovative modular wheelchairs and seating support for people living with mobility disabilities in under-resourced areas, including rural and informal settlements. The SAB Foundation investment will assist ShonaQuip to redesign and manufacture a more conveniently packed, modular support wheelchair so that more people are reached at a lower cost to the beneficiaries

The Invoice Exchange is a web-based company supporting and enabling small and medium sized enterprises, who supply blue-chip companies, to access working capital immediately by selling their invoices on an exchange and receiving payment within 24 hours rather than the standard “30-days plus” invoice. This will allow SME’s to provide more goods and services and employ additional people. The SAB Foundation will invest in IT systems and the cost involved in taking the system to market.

Third place is shared by Arivi Paraffin Stove and Drybath whose innovations each receive R150 000 and fourth place is shared by Lifeplayer MP3 and Micromune, who each get R100 000.

Seed grants of R100 000 each were awarded to FoodPods, MoveeCom Mobile Internet Café, Harvest of Hope – Abalimi Bezekhaya, Mthatha Agricultural Airport Services (MAAS) and Notetaker.

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