Here’s an encouraging fact: despite everything we’ve been told, South Africa remains a rich repository of inventive talent. In fact, pockets of genius lurk in some unlikely places. We know, because we’ve seen them.
Our INVENT 2011 initiative, comprising the third annual Inventors Conference and the inaugural PM Inventors Competition, is done and dusted – and by all accounts, it worked. Our delegates were treated to a line-up of compelling presentations, everyone learned something new (ourselves included), and we emerged from a nationwide inventors’ showdown with a bunch of undisputed and deserving winners.
Topping the list was University of Cape Town bioengineer Dr George Vicatos, named as Inventor of the Year for his development of a versatile and potentially life-changing facial reconstruction system. His R50 000 prize money included an award for top spot in the Cutting Edge category. The presentation was made at a black-tie ceremony in Johannesburg following the Inventors Conference. The judges remarked that Vicatos’ invention “demonstrated his commitment to a better understanding of the human organism and the tireless pursuit of practical solutions for its frailties”. Runner-up in this category was Gerard de Vaal of Cape Town, who developed and patented a revolutionary cooling system for LED products that could result in significant advances in the lighting industry.
Somerset West inventor and businessman Jamii Hamlin captured first place in the Going Green category (sustainable energy/environmental conservation) with his versatile, ecologically sound and finely engineered Ecostake and Elektrostake stainless steel products for agricultural trellis and fencing applications.
No first prize was awarded in the Emerging Genius category, but Kagiso inventor Lucky Mokalusi received a Special Merit Award of R10 000 in acknowledgement of his work on a “virtual-reality training cycle”, which employs an exercise bicycle coupled to a monitor and employing GPS data logger software to simulate real-world training routes. A similar award went to Mpumalanga inventor Kenneth Miya in recognition of his cellphone-based security system for domestic and other applications.
In the Science division of the Industry Awards, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project team was honoured for the “scientifically compelling and technologically inspiring work” underpinning South Africa’s bid to host the world’s most powerful radio telescope. The award was accepted by Willie Esterhuyse, project manager of the MeerKAT Array, precursor of the SKA.
Nissan director Johan Kleynhans accepted an award in the Automotive division for the Leaf electric car. The citation reads: “This award acknowledges the compelling mix of innovation, technological prowess and marketing excellence that has elevated the Nissan Leaf electric car to a level where it has become a viable choice in the fiercely competitive automotive arena. Its imminent introduction to South Africa (it’s due in 2013) represents a significant milestone in planet-friendly motoring.”
The Consumer Technology award went to Samsung South Africa, acknowledging what the judges termed “the formidable impact” of the company’s innovative and technologically impressive Smart TV series, with its associated Smart Hub gateway to TV-optimised content.
Popular Mechanics editor Alan Duggan said he was extremely impressed by the range and quality of the inventions, commenting: “I was especially happy about the top award going to George Vicatos. His work is already changing lives for the better – and he has by no means exhausted his inventiveness.”
Have a look at the final programmer for the 2011 Inventors Conference.